Prince Harry said it was his duty to expose media “exploitation and bribery,” adding that harassment of his wife Meghan Markle was a rite of passage for members of the British royal family.
In the first episodes of the couple’s highly anticipated Netflix documentary series, Harry, who stepped down from royal duties with Meghan two years ago, admitted that people would fundamentally disagree with what he had done.
Britain’s royal family have been braced for renewed criticism from the couple, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who have delivered scathing attacks on Harry’s relatives, including his father King Charles and elder brother Prince William, since they moved to California.
But there were no new major revelations about the royals in the first three episodes of the documentary release on Thursday. Instead it focused on the couple’s treatment at the hands of the press.
“Truth be told, not matter how I tried, no matter how good I was, no matter what I did, they were still going to find a way to destroy me,” Meghan said.
In the documentary, Harry draws comparisons with Meghan’s treatment and the intense media intrusion that his mother Princess Diana had suffered. She was killed in a 1997 car crash in Paris as her limousine sped away from chasing paparazzi photographers.
Speculation about the documentary has dominated British newspapers for a week, with the bulk of the coverage overwhelmingly negative about the couple. Tabloid newspapers have accused them of making millions from their royal status while attacking their family in “an act of war”.
“The documentary is clearly going to be a grotesque parody. It may be their truth but it certainly isn’t one recognised by millions in this country,” the Daily Mail tabloid said in an editorial ahead of the release.
Harry said he was terrified of his wife being driven away by the media and referred to “the pain and suffering of women marrying into this institution”.
“I accept that there will be people around the world who will fundamentally disagree with what I’ve done and how I’ve done it, but I knew that I had to do everything I could to protect my family especially after what happened to my mum,” he said.
Since quitting their royal roles, the Sussexes have gone on the attack against the press. They have cut ties with Britain’s four biggest tabloids and successfully sued a number of publications, with further legal action pending.
“This is about duty and service and I feel as though, being part of this family, it is my duty to uncover this exploitation and bribery that happens within our media,” Harry said.
Harry did make a dig at his relatives over how they had addressed Meghan’s treatment, which he said had clear racist overtones.
“What people need to understand is as far as a lot of the family were concerned, everything she was being put through, they had been put through as well, so it was almost like a rite of passage,” he said over footage of his mother, Sarah Ferguson, the ex-wife of his uncle Prince Andrew, and Kate, wife of his brother William, being surrounded by photographers.
“Some of the members of the family were like 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. I said the difference here is the race element.”
Neither Buckingham Palace nor William’s office Kensington Palace have commented before the release, which comes a week after a racism row involving William’s 83-year-old godmother which saw her step down from her honorary role as a royal aide.