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It would take staggering naïveté to believe that it was an accident.
Earlier this week, the usually terribly careful Prince William and Kate Middleton provoked a minor diplomatic incident when an apparent attempt to congratulate Prince Harry on his birthday went awry.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge decided to broadcast a funny picture of Harry, Kate, and William sprinting down a running track.
No harm there you might think—except that, very noticeably, Harry’s wife, Meghan Markle, whom many in the royal establishment blame for driving a bitter wedge between the brothers, was not included in the picture.
The omission of Meghan immediately sparked a torrent of speculation that, more than nine months after their initial rupture, the bitter feud that ultimately resulted in Harry and Meghan’s departure from the U.K. and the royal family—and was detailed in minute detail in the recent biography of the couple, Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family—is getting worse rather than better.
Official spokespeople for both parties declined to comment to The Daily Beast.
However, conversations with well-informed British sources appeared to confirm that there is still a deep reservoir of anger and resentment on both sides, which has only been made worse by the Sussexes’ decision to collaborate with Netflix, described by one source with excellent contacts among the royal households as being “in bed with the enemy.”
The source, who is friendly with senior courtiers, told The Daily Beast that it was indeed accurate to say that William and Kate remain deeply upset not just by the initial parting of ways, but by the way that the couple continue to unilaterally make decisions that are construed as detrimental to the greater good of the royal family.
The most egregious example of this for the royals, is, of course, the extraordinary deal with Netflix that the couple signed earlier this month (although Meghan’s increasingly political activism hasn’t escaped notice either).
While the deal has been widely reported as being valued at $100 million, industry insiders say the initial down payment, while substantial, is more likely to be in the $10 million-$20 million range. The Sussexes would have to create hit after hit to reach the full $100 million bounty.
That seems unlikely, as the shows they intend to focus on “creating content that informs but also gives hope.” Their “inspirational family programming” may well be edifying, but seems unlikely to result in a series of blockbuster ratings hits.
The deal has, however, still managed to reportedly rile the rest of the family, not least because the Queen was not consulted about the deal—and Netflix is best known behind palace walls for its series The Crown.
While the palace was reasonably relaxed about the first series, which depicted events from more than 50 years ago with masterful attention to detail, the powers that be are uneasy at the way the series has applied an increasingly tabloid gloss to the story of royalty as it marches through the decades.
Its creators publicly insist that The Crown should not be understood as a literal history of the royal family, but that doesn’t stop millions of viewers around the world from understanding it exactly that way.
There can be no doubt that there is a significant tension between the salacious fantasies of The Crown and Meghan and Harry’s regular appeals to us to focus on our better natures, to not give in to the lure of clickbait. They demand, quite reasonably, that the truth be told about them in the media, which is not a courtesy always extended by the makers of The Crown to Harry’s family.
As our source says: “They [the royal family] are furious. They are in bed with the enemy. Netflix uses the royal family to promote entertainment that has no foundation in fact. They also had no knowledge of the deal beforehand, and they are just very annoyed by the way Harry and Meghan are not abiding by the agreement that they made just a few months ago not to do anything that would embarrass the family. Once again, it was presented as a fait accompli so there is nothing further anyone can do. There is a feeling that their word cannot be trusted at the palace.
“People are mightily pissed off. Harry and Meghan seem to say, ‘Oh yes, we will agree to do things that way,’ then they completely ignore it and do as they please. It’s what they have done all along. They are extremely hypocritical. They are ace practitioners of the double standard.”
“It’s all very well for Harry and Meghan to say they have nothing to do with The Crown, but think about it from Netflix’s perspective; they must be rubbing their hands with glee.”
Another source with close links to the royals told The Daily Beast they were “nervously” awaiting Season Four of The Crown, which will start airing Nov. 15, and will reportedly have a considerable focus on Princess Diana’s mental health and bulimia.
“I think there is a feeling that the portrayal of Prince Philip in particular has been very harsh,” said the source. “Harry really adores his grandfather so it does make you wonder why they would do this. It is fiction but there are a lot of people who think it is fact, and now Netflix have signed up Harry and Meghan it looks even more like fact to those people. It’s all very well for Harry and Meghan to say they have nothing to do with The Crown, but think about it from Netflix’s perspective; they must be rubbing their hands with glee.
“I don’t think there is any hope of a rapprochement now,” the source said of the prospect of the brothers and their wives smoothing things over. “But I think it’s very clearly understood that this is Meghan’s deal. It is Meghan who has the contacts in that business to have made this happen. And if the marriage dissolved, my sense is that Harry would be welcomed back into the royal family with open arms.”