Meghan and Harry are in a nightmare situation ahead of the Queen’s Jubilee with the streaming giant applying the pressure.
If you were going to pitch a TV series to a major streaming platform, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect plot: A beautiful damsel in distress (and diamonds), a dashing prince riding in his electric car to save her, an ostensibly wintry Queen, a bitter rivalry with a pretty foe and our couple ultimately making a brave dash for freedom.
It has everything! Love! Tears! Private jets! Pathos up the wazoo! (There’s even an uncle-slash-ogre in the mix!)
It’s a show you and I and everyone with opposable thumbs would binge in a heartbeat. Now, one has to wonder if this is what Netflix thought they might be getting their hands on when they managed to get Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, to sign on the dotted line.
Rewind to September 2020 and it was Netflix who got to announce that they had secured the talents of the world’s most famous unemployed, inexperienced TV producers. At the time, they were the hottest of hot celebrity property having done the wholly unthinkable and turned their back on royal life and lifelong tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show.
At first, it seemed like a match made in heaven: Oodles of lovely money for the Sussexes; having actual members of the royal family on the books for Netflix.
But nearly two years on and cracks are starting to show in this marriage with a new report claiming that the upcoming Platinum Jubilee celebrations in London could be a make-or-break inflection point.
So far, the world has yet to see any glimpse of the Duke and Duchess’ producing prowess. Of their two shows publicly greenlit by Netflix, Harry’s documentary Heart of Invictus was shooting up until last month (and may still be) and Meghan’s animated children’s series Pearl was axed last month as part of a series of high-profile cancellations.
With reports that the Sussexes’ deal is worth $140 million, so far Netflix has not gotten any real bang for their many, many bucks.
Now a US consultant for the company has ominously revealed that top brass at the company are “evaluating” what “unique, exclusive and interesting content” the pair might be bringing to the table.
“We are getting to a point within the business where Netflix executives are evaluating what content around the royals and the Sussexes is actually coming into them,” the consultant has told The Mirror.
“If you are at the network, then you signed them for their unique attraction and selling point given their royal access and insight.
“Sure, both are creative and Harry has produced some powerful mental health documentaries, but the big-money deals are for big projects.
“That is why the tens of millions of dollars was potentially laid out.”
So just what could the Sussexes do to ensure they get a good ‘evaluation’? Funny you should ask, what with Platinum Jubilee celebrations about two weeks away.
Earlier this month it was revealed that, after months of will-they won’t-they toing and froing, Harry and Meghan would indeed be returning to the UK for the knees-up to mark his grandmother’s history-making 70 years on the throne.
Also making the journey will be their two young children, Archie, 3, and Lilibet who will mark her first birthday during the Jubilee weekend.
What isn’t known is whether a large film crew of dozens might also be joining them.
In April when they travelled to the Netherlands for the Invictus Games, there was a 30-strong horde of camera people, sound technicians and various other production staffers trailing in their wake.
In September last year when they travelled to New York, Page Six reported that Meghan and Harry “have been secretly taping their NYC visit for a rumoured Netflix documentary about their lives” including during a visit to the 9/11 memorial, to the United Nations and at a concert for vaccine equality.
In November, when they returned to the Big Apple, the Daily Mail published photos showing a film crew following them inside a Veteran’s Day gala and of camera equipment being carried into the apartment where they were staying.
For weeks now, the house of Windsor has reportedly been fretting about the prospect of leering TV lenses also breaching Palace gates.
Earlier this month, The Sun reported that “Palace ‘minders’ will stop any Harry and Meghan Netflix crew if they try to film inside royal events at the Platinum Jubilee”.
“A team has been tasked to stop any moves by filmmakers to ‘exploit’ the streaming giant’s [$143 million] deal with the couple at the Queen’s four-day celebrations.”
A well-placed source told the paper: “The worry is [a Netflix crew] will push it and try to gain access to areas of Jubilee celebration events where they can film Harry and Meghan and their children.
“Even if they accept that their Netflix crew can’t go into Buckingham Palace to film, they could cause problems – and at the very least cause a major distraction.
“Senior courtiers believe that Netflix will see it as one big opportunity to exploit their mega-millions agreement with the couple.”
However, while the Queen might have put her well-shod foot down about any Real Housewives of Westminster nonsense, Netflix sounds like they are getting a tad antsy, per The Mirror, with pressure mounting on the couple to deliver the goods.
“The Jubilee is the biggest gathering of UK royals in years and means that Harry and Meghan will be around everyone,” the consultant has said. “The chiefs want exclusive footage and their dream is to have insights in that royal world never seen before.
“Many at the business are wondering what happens if the Sussexes are unable to deliver unique, exclusive and interesting content from the biggest event in recent years for the royals.”
With the Palace and any other royal properties out of bounds, the only possible royal filming location left would be the fraught No Man’s Land of the Sussexes’ Frogmore Cottage. It is believed that since 2020, the couple has paid a commercial rent for the property and it is still technically their UK address (they renewed the lease earlier this year).
That said, the property is owned by the Crown Estate and complicating matters even further, Harry’s cousin Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank and their son August have lived there for about 18 months now.
Says the Netflix consultant: “What goes on at Frogmore Cottage is effectively private interactions between family. Frogmore is a grey area in terms of whether it comes under full-time jurisdiction of the courtiers. If everyone agrees to filming scenes there, that would be exclusive, unique material never seen before.”
If we take these reports at face value, it is looking increasingly like Harry and Meghan are stuck between a rock and a very regal place.
Their options, again assuming these reports are correct, would seem to be that they can either appease their new bosses and help cameras venture where no camera has ventured before. Or, they can do the right thing by the royal family and not attempt to circumnavigate the palace’s ruling and thus stay in the Queen’s good graces.
The choice sounds like it could come down to what they value more: Money or his materfamilias?
If Harry and Meghan did bring a TV crew with them and they did film inside Frogmore (both of which are very big ‘ifs’) the Queen would surely be so angry that she would turf out the tourists from the Tower of London, turn the place back into a prison just for the Sussexes and then conveniently lose the keys.
In a few weeks, the Jubilee will close out on the Sunday night with a bang with the 5000 cast member strong-Jubilee Pageant. But fireworks? The way things are shaping up, there very well could be plenty of those, stretching from Buckingham Palace to Frogmore Cottage.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.