The spat between Buckingham Palace and the producers behind Netflix’s “Harry & Meghan” docuseries has intensified after it emerged that palace officials not only had an opportunity to comment on the Sussexes’ claims within the show, but tried to obtain footage in advance.
The war of words erupted last Thursday, shortly after “Harry & Meghan” dropped on Netflix at 8 a.m. U.K. time. The series opens with a set of title cards reading: “This is a first hand account of Harry and Meghan’s story, told with never before seen personal archive. All interviews were completed by August 2022. Members of the Royal Family declined to comment on the content within this series.”
By late morning, it appeared Buckingham Palace sources had briefed royal reporters that the royals had not been approached for comment. The Daily Mail’s royal editor Rebecca English tweeted at 12 p.m.: “Contrary to claims by the makers of the Netflix documentary, I understand neither Buckingham or Kensington Palace or any members of the Royal Family were approached for comment on the content of the series. I’m not expecting any comment from the royal households as it stands.”
Roya Nikkhah, royal editor for The Sunday Times, tweeted at 12:02 p.m.: “NEW Senior royal sources say this claim in #HarryandMeghanonNetflix that members of the royal family declined to comment, is wrong. Sources say they’re not aware of any approach to Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace or any member of the family on its content or for comment[.]”
A Netflix source immediately refuted the Palace’s claim, however, saying that both Harry’s dad, King Charles, and brother, Prince William, were approached for comment via their communications secretaries and given a chance to reply.
In the series, Harry claims his older brother “screamed and shouted” at him after he told them he and wife Meghan planned to “step back” from the Royal Family, and that William had effectively “bullied” him out of the family. He also alleged that his father had said “things that weren’t true” and that both men – or at least their offices – had leaked stories to the press about Harry and Meghan.
By the late afternoon, the Buckingham Palace sources had changed their tune, according to U.K. news reports, and confirmed that they had received a request for comment via a “third party production company,” which they had attempted to verify with both Netflix and the Sussexes’ production company Archewell. Having received no reply from either party they did not respond further to the request.
At 4.26 p.m. Nikkhah tweeted: “A @KensingtonRoyal source has clarified that an email was received ‘purporting’ to be from a third-party production company on the #HarryandMeghan doc from an unknown company’s email address. KP [Kensington Palace] contacted @netflix and Archwell to try and verify it but received no response[.]”
“I understand that a similar approach from an unverified email was also made to Buckingham Palace, and BP [Buckingham Palace] also unsuccessfully attempted verification,” she wrote in a follow-up tweet. “Sources say neither emails included substantial information on the series in for adequate right to reply[.]”
As Variety confirmed earlier today, that third party was Story Syndicate, the production company co-founded by “Harry & Meghan” director Liz Garbus. Story Syndicate co-produced the series alongside Archewell Productions.
Now it has emerged that not only did William’s communications secretary Lee Thompson acknowledge he had received Story Syndicate’s email but, in a reply dated Nov. 30, he asked the company to share footage from the series with him in advance of it dropping on Netflix, a source for Story Syndicate confirmed to Variety. Once Story Syndicate told him they could not share any footage in advance – but asked him again to respond to the claims made within the series, which they re-iterated in the email – Thompson did not respond further.
The Story Syndicate source confirmed to Variety that a request for comment was also sent directly to Tobyn Andreae, director of communications for the Royal household and spokesperson for King Charles. That email was sent to Andrae’s inbox as opposed to a generic Buckingham Palace email address and did not bounce back.
On the same day, Story Syndicate also emailed Jason Knauf (Prince William and Harry’s former joint communications secretary), setting out claims made about him in “Harry & Meghan.” A source close to the docuseries pointed out to Variety that, unlike the royal communications team, Knauf did not question the veracity of the production company’s email or involvement and responded to Story Syndicate’s query with a comment which was then included in the series.
Buzzfeed News, which first broke the news about Thompson’s request, reported that an Archewell employee received an email from the royal communications team regarding Story Syndicate’s query, but it was sent after the deadline had passed for a response to be included in the docuseries. Buzzfeed News added that Netflix had not seen any correspondence from the royals regarding the docuseries but that such a request may have been sent to “an obscure account.”
A source independently confirmed Archewell’s correspondence with the palace to Variety.
Buzzfeed News also claimed that Thompson and Andreae were the “royal sources” who briefed Nikkhah and English, sending them information via a WhatsApp group.
Variety has reached out to all parties for comment.