By Rob Picheta, CNN
Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, have taken aim at Britain’s media and promised to recall their experiences of their bitter split from the British royal family, in their highly anticipated Netflix documentary series.
The first three episodes of the project, titled “Harry & Meghan,” were released on Thursday after months of speculation that the couple would star in a tell-all series.
They detail the pair’s initial romance and Meghan’s first exposure to the structures and demands of royal life, as well as Harry’s childhood, the pervasive nature of Britain’s tabloid media and the death of his mother, Princess Diana.
Buckingham and Kensington Palaces will likely be braced for the fallout from the series, after sustained tensions between Harry and his father, King Charles, and brother, Prince William.
“It’s really hard to look back on it now and go, what on earth happened? Like how did we end up here?,” Harry said in a video diary shown in the first episode, recorded shortly after the pair finished their final royal duties in March 2020.
He said he became “genuinely concerned for the safety of my family,” attacking the intrusion of the media, which he has frequently lamented in recent years.
Harry took aim at the media within the first few minutes of the show. “No one knows that full truth. We know the full truth, the institution knows the full truth, and the media knows the full truth because they’ve been in on it,” Harry said. He said he considers it his “duty” to “uncover this exploitation and bribery that happens within our media.”
The series comes over a year and a half after the couple’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, which contained a flurry of criticisms of members of the royal family and caused turmoil at the Palace.
It marks a first major public relations test for the monarchy under King Charles III, who himself has been tacitly criticized by Harry since their split from the family, and whose relationship with his grandson has frayed.
Family tensions and anger at the media
“I accept that there will be people around the world who fundamentally disagree with what I’ve done and how I’ve done it,” Prince Harry said of the watershed decision to leave the royal family in early 2020, which set the stage for years of revelations from the couple and turned their relationships with Harry’s relatives frosty.
“But I knew that I had to do everything I could to protect my family, especially after what happened to my mum,” Harry continued.
Throughout the first three episodes of the series, the couple spoke angrily of their experience at the hands of the notoriously boisterous British media.
“My face was everywhere, my life was everywhere, tabloids had taken over everything,” Meghan said of her early encounters with the press.
Harry also compared Meghan to his mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car crash while being chased by paparazzi in 1997. So much of what Meghan is and how she is is so similar to my mum … She has the same confidence, she has this warmth about her,” he said in the first episode.
Harry said he “learned things” from his mother’s anger at the media while she was alive that colored his view of royal life, including seeing firsthand “the pain and suffering of women marrying into this institution.”
“I remember thinking, how can I ever find someone who is willing and capable to be able to withstand all the baggage that comes with being with me?” he said.
The couple have spoken before about the constraints placed on them while members of the royal family, and that frustration re-emerged repeatedly in the documentary.
Meghan described her engagement announcement in 2017 as an “orchestrated reality show.” And speaking of the media’s initial fascination with the prince’s then-girlfriend, Harry recalled how other members of the royal family struggled to share his concern.
“As far as a lot of the family were concerned, everything that she was being put through, they had been put through as well. So it was almost like a rite of passage,” Harry said. “My wife had to go through that, so why should your girlfriend be treated any differently? Why should you get special treatment? Why should she be protected?,” he said, paraphrasing their arguments.
“I said the difference here is the race element,” Harry added.
The first three episodes were released on Thursday, with three more scheduled for next week. Interviews were completed in August, the month before the Queen’s death, according to the series.
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CNN’s Muhammad Darwish, Zahid Mahmood, Christian Edwards and Sarah Dean contributed reporting