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Netflix’s Harry and Meghan docuseries brings nothing new to the table

The three-episode first volume trods extremely familiar ground.

A black-and-white photo of Meghan sitting on a kitchen island and Harry standing and kissing her.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex on Netflix’s Harry and Meghan.
Courtesy of Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

“We’ve never been allowed to tell our story,” says Prince Harry bitterly in the third episode of Netflix’s new docuseries Harry & Meghan.

“I guess that’s why we’re here,” replies director Liz Garbus from off camera.

This would be a powerful sentiment if it were true. But Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have told their story before, multiple times: most explosively in their 2021 interview with Oprah, but also frequently in public statements they either make themselves or float through their allies into the press. The story of Harry and Meghan is by this point quite familiar to the general public, and we already know exactly what their perspective on it is. If either of the principal parties has any new thoughts to share, they don’t make it into this new series.

If you need a refresher on the basics: Prince Harry, younger son of King Charles, and the biracial American actress Meghan Markle of the USA network legal drama Suits began dating in 2016. When they married in 2018, it was a historic moment. A divorced American woman of color was entering into the family that represents the legacy of the British empire. It was historic, too, when in 2020 they announced that they would be stepping down from their positions as senior members of the British royal family.

The three episodes that make up volume one of Harry and Meghan rehash the saga, taking us up to the point of the wedding, with very little new information. (Volume two is set to drop on December 15.) The pair tell us about their early courtship, complete with snippets of text flirting and cuddly snapshots. They cover the explosive and explicitly racist reaction of the British press when their relationship became public, their engagement, and the frenzied leadup to the wedding. Interspersed are plentiful discussions of the pairs’ childhoods (special attention, of course, goes to Princess Diana), while talking heads provide commentary on British racial politics and the legacy of empire.

If you have read even one news article or think piece on Harry and Meghan, everything from the chronology of their relationship to the political commentary is well-trodden ground. The only real new material here comes with some discussion of Meghan’s close relationship with the heretofore unknown daughter of her estranged half-sister, which serves to illuminate Meghan’s strained relationship with her father’s side of the family. While this information is nicely integrated into the narrative, it is hardly a silence-breaking bombshell — and while revelations may come in volume two, what’s on display in volume one is not promising.

Instead, the show is left to coast on the plentiful charisma of its two glamorous protagonists, and on the evident strength of their love for each other. There is definitely a certain pleasure in watching them being beautiful and in love in the midst of all their beautiful things, but it’s not enough to power a six-episode docuseries.

Harry and Meghan does so little to advance what we already know that it feels more like a summary than a true documentary. It seems to have very little reason to exist at all, outside of the fact that Harry and Meghan partially financed their new lives away from the royal purse strings through a deal with Netflix, and so they are contractually obligated to produce this series.

In fact, they are contractually obligated to return to this particular story fairly frequently, in multiple different media. They have a joint deal with Penguin Random House for as many as three books (the first, Harry’s memoir, comes out this January), as well as a deal with Spotify. They have a high-powered speaking agent. They are selling their story in as many different formats as they can manage.

The blandness of Harry and Meghan is perhaps, then, the result of the fact that since they left the royal family, Harry and Meghan’s most valuable remaining asset is their story. The trouble is, they’ve already told it.

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