Harry and Meghan documentary: royal experts weigh in on ‘Panorama’ moment
Heart-on-sleeve programme breaks royal rule of ‘never complain, never explain’
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s emotional TV interview about their treatment by the press has drawn comparisons to Princess Diana’s famous Panorama confessional.
During ITV’s Harry and Meghan: An African Journey, broadcast on Sunday, Prince Harry revealed that he thinks about his late mother every day and lives in fear of the past repeating itself.
He also responded to newspaper reports of a rift with his brother, William, saying: “We’re brothers. We’ll always be brothers. We’re certainly on different paths at the moment but I will always be there for him and as I know he’ll always be there for me.”
Meanwhile, Meghan told interviewer Tom Bradby that she felt “vulnerable” both during her pregnancy and as a new mum, and that she had been “existing, not living”.
“Not many people have asked if I’m OK,” she revealed.
“Meghan’s watery-eyed interview with Bradby reminded me of Diana’s extraordinary confessional to BBC Panorama journalist Martin Bashir in 1995,” writes Angela Levin in The Telegraph.
However, Levin points out that some critics have found Meghan “voicing her personal struggles at odds with other scenes in the documentary, such as visiting a project teaching teenage girls how to fight off rapists in South Africa’s ‘murder capital’”.
She concludes: “Perhaps just a little stiff upper lip could be useful, if what you say will be hurtful to your family and astonish the public who pay for the life of privilege you perceive as a gilded cage.”
Royal experts also warn that the interview “could open them up to further damaging headlines”, says Caroline Davies in The Guardian.
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PR expert Mark Borkowski told Davies that the “heart-on-sleeve” programme had broken the traditional royal rule of “never complain, never explain”.
And royal biographer Penny Junor said: “It just feeds the media machine, and that is the one thing Harry really hates. This whole documentary has exposed him. In a way it is the very reverse of what he has said he wants for him and his family, namely, privacy.”
But a source close to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex told CNN royal correspondent Max Foster that Prince Harry has never shied away from talking about his own mental health.
“The source added that the institution around the British royal family is full of people afraid of and inexperienced at how best to help harness and deploy the value of the royal couple who, they said, have single-handedly modernised the monarchy,” writes Foster.
The New York Times notes that “comments on social media suggested a good deal of sympathy” for the pair, with many people empathising with California-born Meghan’s desire for more than just survival.
Other US newspapers also praised her honesty. The Washington Post calls the documentary interview a “wrenching spotlight into the early days of motherhood” that “rang so true to so many women”, while USA Today says “women everywhere are thanking Duchess Meghan for saying she’s not OK”.
As one person wrote under an online clip of Meghan’s interview: “Even princesses know it is hard. I love this. This would help so many people feel ok about the struggle of it all.”