Picture the convivial scene. You have been invited into the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s palatial £11 million mansion in Montecito, California as an honoured guest.
Once you have removed your shoes, been frisked for weapons or recording devices and been offered a kombucha smoothie, you are ushered into the inner sanctum of the world’s most talked-about satellite branch of the royal family. What would you expect to find? A dartboard with Prince Charles’s face on it? Endless piles of obscure genealogical books that explain why Prince Harry is, in fact, the rightful heir to the throne? Or endless expensive, studiedly tasteful rooms that lack any heart and soul whatsoever?
Harry and Meghan’s day-to-day lives may only be of marginal interest to most people, but Netflix remains convinced that their multi-million dollar investment in the couple has to be repaid somehow. It has therefore not come as a complete surprise that the usually well-sourced American gossip website Page Six has broken the story that Netflix will be getting – in their words – their ‘pound of flesh’ by filming the lives of the duo for an ‘at home with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex-style docuseries’.
Netflix have already sent their cameras to the Netherlands to film Harry’s antics there, but it has now been suggested that they have been filming both at the couple’s home and on a visit to New York last September, during which Meghan addressed the Global Citizen Live event: something that did nothing to dispel growing rumours that she is interested in getting more involved in American politics.
If the story is correct, then there is some tension as to when the show will be broadcast. Given that Harry is publishing his much-anticipated, ghost-written memoir in September, Page Six has suggested that Netflix would want the programme to air then, but that the Sussexes would prefer the show to appear on the service in 2023. A kind interpretation of this is that they would not wish the Netflix series to overshadow the book; a more cynical one is that this delay ensures their continued presence in the news cycle for at least the next year, and probably beyond.
Whenever it does air, it is hard to know what to expect. Netflix’s commercial relationship with the dynamic duo means that any programme is likely to portray them in the best possible light – they would almost certainly be offered full editorial approval – and it could end up being as tiresome and hagiographic as last year’s notorious Oprah Winfrey interview.
Yet it is also likely, given their willingness to pick fights with virtually anyone in sight, that the show will contain their unfiltered thoughts on the various ructions in the royal family, whether it’s Prince Andrew settling his case with Virginia Giuffre, the persistent rumours about the Queen’s ill-health and what Charles’s ambitions for his reign – and potential regency – really are. And if this appears, further damaging headlines are inevitable.
It has been suggested that Netflix has tired of the Sussexes, like many of the other big corporations that were desperate to court them when they first moved to California in 2020. The recent cancellation of Meghan’s animated series Pearl, about a 12-year old girl who was inspired by strong historical women, for ‘cost-cutting purposes’, seemed a polite way of severing a relationship that has so far produced little of lasting value for either party. But if this story is correct, and Netflix’s steadily declining subscriber base is to be treated to an intimate account of life with the world’s most committed attention seekers, then viewers can sit back, pour ourselves a collective glass of Sauvignon Blanc and await the latest instalment in a soap opera that continues to overshadow virtually everything else monarchical in this Jubilee year.