The release of a bombshell trailer for Prince Harry and Meghan’s blockbuster docuseries on Netflix appeared to be viciously timed to “attack” Prince William and ruin his US trip, a royal watcher said.
Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams said while the theory could not be proved, he suspected the timing of the release to coincide with Prince William’s so-called “Super Bowl” moment was no coincidence.
The trailer for the Netflix documentary series was released on Thursday, during the Prince and Princess of Wales’ three-day trip to Boston for the Earthshot Prize awards ceremony.
“This can’t be proven, of course, Netflix could have done what they wished,” Mr Fitzwilliams told The National.
“But the facts are that we have to go with our perceptions of it. I would say [the timing of the trailer release] just seems so brutal.
“These royal trips are so carefully planned. It’s been perfectly true that the Sussexes have never co-operated, at least not that I can remember, with synchronising diaries with the rest of the royal family. Not since they stepped down as senior working royals.
“But this is no coincidence. The message here is clear.”
Royal watcher Kristen Meinzer said such deliberate timing was unlikely.
“Outlets like Netflix do not just decide to release content last minute because it will help their stars to sabotage their family members,” she said.
“As a former TV producer, I can say that months of planning go into show scheduling. Also, I highly doubt Harry and Meghan have any desire to undermine Will and Kate's environmental efforts — or hurt them in any other way.
“As with [Prince William and Kate], ecology and sustainability rank quite high on the Sussexes' priority list. And the Sussexes have made clear: they just want to tell their own story.”
Nevertheless, the documentary is likely to “widen the rift tremendously” between the brothers, said Mr Fitzwilliams.
The trailer features “extraordinary images”, including Meghan looking depressed, or appearing to be weeping, interspersed with joyous shots of the couple's wedding, he said.
In one frame Meghan is shown holding her head in her hands as Prince Harry says: “No one sees what's happening behind closed doors,” before the image flips to a shot of Catherine, Princess of Wales, glaring during a 2019 service for Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey.
“[That] image from that Commonwealth Day fiasco, which was hardly a generous choice of Kate — specially timed, one might think,” said Mr Fitzwilliams.
“It is not meant to [make Princess Catherine look good] and it was chosen for that reason. This isn’t coincidence.
“It is an attack and it is revenge. Revenge is horrible and public revenge is even more horrible.
“The Sussexes owe everything to being members of the royal family, all their work. They wouldn’t have any work at all that would be notable.
“Having said that, the problem is they control the narrative and it is very difficult to do anything about it. Some recollections may vary. The dignified shock response is all the Palace can do.”
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The trailer, in addition to the latest racism row involving a Buckingham Palace aide who was forced to resign after repeatedly asking a British black woman where she was from, have unquestionably “overshadowed” Prince William and his wife Catherine's “very important trip”.
Mr Fitzwilliams praised Buckingham Palace for its swift and “appropriate” condemnation of the comments made by Lady Susan Hussey, given the transcript of the conversation.
“Having said that, the row is still continuing,” he said.
“This could not have been more high profile nor more damaging.”
He said Prince William and Catherine’s trip should have dominated the headlines.
Prince William and Kate tour Boston — in pictures
“Meeting President Biden today is a very good example of the unique soft power you have, especially with the future king and queen. Also with the Earthshot prize, worth millions, and for a pivotal reason,” he said.
“It’s extremely difficult with the Netflix release. It’s completely overshadowed the tour so far.
“If you meet the President of the United States, if you launch a prize worth millions with a good cause [it should be a good story] but that isn’t scandal. That isn’t new material.
“The Sussexes were sharing new material and they knew very well that would detract from the conventional, or anything conventional, even if Earthshot is new.
“In the short term the Palace simply can’t win on this basis.”