Meghan Markle on meeting Prince William and Kate Middleton: 'The formality on the outside carried through on the inside'

Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Courtesy of Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex..
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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's new Netflix documentary, Harry & Meghan, is here.

The first three episodes dropped Thursday and give an intimate glimpse into their lives and love story. It features their own never-before-seen photos, videos and texts from when they met until today, as parents of Archie and Lilibet living in Montecito, Calif., after ditching their roles as senior members of the British royal family.

"A friend of ours actually suggested that we document ourselves through this period of time," Harry explained. "With all of the misinformation that was going on out there, especially about us and the departure, it seemed like a really sensible idea."

Added Markle, "The past six years of my life, books are written about our story from people I don't know. Doesn't it make more sense to hear our story from us?"

The first three episodes focus heavily on the British media's impact on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's relationship, and racism in the media. Markle, who stopped acting after becoming engaged to Harry, is biracial.

Helping them tell their story, which begins with Harry spotting her on a friend's Instagram up until their last-minute wedding prep, include her mother, Doria Ragland, niece Ashleigh Hale and friends ranging from Serena Williams to Suits co-star Abigail Spencer, as well as people who currently work with them, and did before Megxit. The interviews with the couple were wrapped in August 2022, before Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, died.

Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Courtesy of Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The personal photos and videos of the couple help make for a compelling watch. (Photo: Courtesy of Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex)

His first glimpse of her was on Instagram

Harry and Meghan, who refer to each other as H and M throughout, talked about meeting. He recalled seeing the TV star's image while scrolling his apparently private Instagram. He said his future wife appeared in a video posted by his friend, whom he didn't identify, and Markle was using a Snapchat puppy filter. "That whole thing, the dog ears — that's what he saw of me," she laughed. He recalled saying, "'Who is that?'" She was recently single and wasn't looking for a new relationship, but the friend connected them and they started texting.

The first image Harry saw of Markle was an Instagram video of her with a dog filter. (Photo: Harry & Meghan/Netflix)
The first image Harry saw of Markle was an Instagram video of her with a dog filter. (Photo: Harry & Meghan/Netflix)

He was 30 minutes late for their first date

Markle recalled her friend saying "Prince Haz" was dying to meet her after seeing her on Insta. "Who is Prince Haz?" she said she asked, unaware of his nickname. She scoped his private Instagram — with beautiful photography from trips to Africa — and was intrigued. She was in London and agreed to a drink (but not dinner) at Soho House 76 Dean Street in July 2016. He was 30 minutes late, arriving a "hot, sweaty, red ball of mess." She was initially put off, thinking: Oh, this is how he's going to be. But she said he was genuinely embarrassed to be late. They had a great time and she asked him out for a second date, recalling him saying it was very American and forward of her. They had their date at the same place the next night with Harry pointing out she was late — though just five minutes. That night, they took a photo of themselves appearing already smitten, which they shared. She left and they stayed connected via text and FaceTime (she had him as HAZ in her phone contacts). They said they had a fun, childlike energy together. Their philanthropic work was also a connector.

They shared the one photo they took on their first real date — one night after they initially met for a drink.

They shared personal photos from their courtship

The whole documentary features their personal photo and video collection. They shared images from their first trip together — meeting in Botswana in July 2016 and camping in a tent for five days together. They agreed that being in that environment — no cell service, no bathroom, no mirrors — made them open to one another quickly. They secretly dated for months without the media finding out, and were smitten. They tried to figure out logistically how it would work. She implemented a two-week rule — that was the longest they would be apart — and she often flew from Toronto, where she lived and worked, to see him in London. He admitted he was scared that all the press attention would drive her away — as it had his past girlfriends, who found their whole lives scrutinized and family harassed. "I was terrified of her being driven away by the media," he said. On Oct. 29, they were told that the media was going to report they were together. The decided to go out for a fun night together — to a Halloween party — before the pin was pulled "on the fun grenade." They shared photos of their costumes at the party they attended with his cousin Princess Eugenie and her now-husband Jack Brooksbank.

The couple shared photos from the first trip they took to Botswana soon after they met.
They agreed their first trip was pivotal for their relationship. Harry said,
They agreed their first trip was pivotal for their relationship. Harry said, "We had to get to know each other before the rest of the world and the media sort of joined it." (Photo: Harry & Meghan/Netflix)

Negative and racist commentary started immediately in the press

Markle spoke of how overwhelming it was — and Harry drew parallels to how his mother was hounded to her death. Some of the early headlines about Markle flashed on the screen, including how she was [almost] straight outta Compton," the L.A. neighborhood and reported on her life in a "gang-scarred" neighborhood. Later, Markle and her mother actually did a hometown tour of where they lived, which was not Compton (not there's anything wrong with Compton, Markle noted) and showed where she went to school. Harry said it was hard "to see another woman in my life who I love go through this feeding frenzy." The royals' guidance was not to respond, so the narrative and tension kept building. Harry said that within the royals, the sense was that all the future wives went through similar press attacks. He tried to make the the case that "the difference here is the race element."

Markle said she was 'stalked' and got a death threat when she returned to Canada

Markle's Suits colleagues discussed the impact her relationship had on the set when she returned. British tabloid reporters would try to buy the call sheets to know when she was shooting. They had to gate off the actors' trailers to try to keep her safe. Tabloid reporters went door-to-door in her neighborhood to get stories about her, paying one to install a camera that captured footage of her backyard. While she loved her life there and had been very social, she felt like she was living in a fishbowl with her curtains down all the time. Markle recalled calling police to report that she was being "stalked" by six paparazzi sitting in their cars outside. She said they told her there was nothing they could do. She later got a death threat, and that led to her getting her own security detail, provided by NBC. The head security guard talked about having worked with many A-list celebrities and rich people around the world, but he had never experienced the interest in Markle and it made his job challenging. Her friends asked if Harry was "worth this. ... Look what's happening to your life?" Harry said their dating life became car chases, surveillance driving and disguises, "which isn't a particularly healthy way to start a relationship," but they tried to maintain humor about it.

Meeting the royals, including a formal intro to Kate and William

The first senior royal Markle met was Queen Elizabeth and it was impromptu and "it was surreal." They joked about her trying to curtsy for the late queen, with Markle revealing she learned most of the royal protocols on her own and mostly by Googling them. She talked about making dinner for Prince William and Kate Middleton and how she was casually dressed in ripped jeans. She said from the moment she gave them their first hug, she felt the difference between their American and British customs. "I started to understand that the formality on the outside carried through on the inside, that there is a forward-facing way of being and then you close the door and think, ‘OK we can relax now,'" she said. "But that formality carries over on both sides and that was surprising to me.”

The proposal happened a month before it was announced

Harry said he wanted to pop the question it earlier but needed permission from the queen. He also couldn't do it outside of the U.K. Markle was making a chicken dinner at Nottingham Cottage when it happened and she was tipped off when he was opening Champagne, which was out of the norm. He said he had 15 electric candles lit and of course got down on one knee. They had a secret engagement party with friends and everyone wore animal onesies. They were both matching in penguin ones — as penguins mate for life. In late November, they officially announced the engagement, posing for photographers with the ring — which includes diamonds from Diana's collection. That was followed by their first joint interview. She dubbed the whole thing an "orchestrated reality show." There was a lot of talk of the political climate at the time, and how race was a big factor in it. Despite their happiness, Markle felt that no matter what she did, the press was finding a way to try and destroy her.

Harry spoke about wearing the Nazi uniform

While discussing the racism Markle endured — including a member of the royal family wearing a racist brooch to an event with Markle — Harry spoke about his own misstep wearing a Nazi uniform in 2005. He called it "probably one of the biggest mistakes of my life." He admitted he "felt so ashamed afterwords" and talked about what he did to try to learn from it, including meeting with a chief rabbi in the U.K. and then going to Berlin and meeting a Holocaust survivor. "I could've ignored it and probably make the same mistakes over and over again in my life," he said, but he "learned from that." He spoke about "unconscious bias" and how it can be an "education." And how it's a constant work in progress "for everyone including me."

Markle's toxic family

Ragland said she felt unsafe with the attention on her all the way in America. She was stalked by photographers trying to get details for salacious stories. Markle's half-sister, Samantha Markle, played along, dubbing her sibling the "pushy princess" and giving interviews about her. Markle maintained she had barely any relationship with Samantha. Her parents split when she was 2, and Samantha was 17 years older. They never lived together and the last time she had seen her, prior to her popping up in the media after Markle started dating Harry, was when she was in her early 20s. Markle did speak about her close relationship with Samantha's daughter Ashleigh, who was featured in the doc. Markle said she was advised against inviting Ashleigh to the wedding because she was the daughter of Samantha, who kept badmouthing her.

Wedding countdown — and her dad being counted out

At the end of the third episode, wedding preparations were in full swing — and so was the negative press about Markle. "We were playing Whac-A-Mole every day," combating planted the most salacious stories. (Actor Simon Rex said he was offered $70K to make up a story about dating her.) Some of the real headlines flashed on the screen, linking Markle to Matt Lauer after his #MeToo scandal, claiming she was related to a serial killer, that she snorted cocaine and had a porn star ex. She also received a letter while white powder. "I was just turtling," she said of her response to it all. Then the lifelong daddy's girl was told that her father was selling staged photos of her to the press and made a reported $100,000.

She said she called him and he denied it. When they offered to fly him to London early, however, so they could be together and he could meet Harry before the wedding, he declined. It all felt "really cagey" to her and she didn't believe his denial. Ragland said she was "stunned" that her ex "would become part of this circus ... that he would capitalize" on his daughter. Markle said she called her dad 20 times after that and he didn't answer the phone. She saw on TMZ that he said he wouldn't be going to the wedding after having a reported heart attack. He wouldn't pick up my call "and instead you're talking to TMZ?!" she recalled. Thomas, of course, didn't go to the wedding and Markle hasn't spoken to him. Harry said it's something that he feels terrible about because if it wasn't for her relationship with him, it wouldn't have happened.

"Of course, it’s incredibly sad what happened," Harry said. "She had a father before this. And now she doesn’t have a father. And I shouldered that. Because if Meg wasn’t with me, then her dad would still be her dad."

This was the first part of the Harry & Meghan drop, which is now live on Netflix. Part two comes on Dec. 15.