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Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the 2022 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award Gala in New York City, on Dec. 6.ANDREW KELLY/Reuters

Jen Gerson is a contributing columnist for The Globe and Mail.

The six-episode “documentary” Harry & Meghan is the most boring season of The Crown to date. The Sussexes must be commended for their openness and courage. Hours and hours worth of openness. It’s a shame they didn’t have the courage to hire a more ruthless editor, however.

Look, I’m not here to simply trash the Netflix docu-drama. I will go so far as to say there is some compelling watching here – perhaps 30 to 45 minutes worth of necessary television. One simply has to slog through six hours to find it.

And so that is what I have done for you, dear reader. I have waded into the regal abyss to recount the key elements of this series. I have watched Harry & Meghan so you don’t have to.

The documentary lays out a collection of the pair’s grievances – with the Royal Family, the institution broadly and the media writ large. Add to the list: Meghan Markle’s bitter and estranged family, and a handful of hateful people on Twitter who say mean things. All of these enemies are working in tandem in a war against Meghan and Harry. It’s a conspiracy of unnamed “theys.”

Do you want to hear how hurt Meghan was because several mean headlines were published in the wake of her multiday $500,000 celebrity-studded baby shower? That sums up the tone of the thing.

All the while, Meghan and Harry craft a fine image of themselves as human labradoodles: photogenic, warm and likeable. We are meant to believe that the couple have done nothing wrong. Their only sin was to be too naive, too trusting and too innocent to predict how vicious and difficult life would become as Meghan attempted to ingratiate herself into the royal milieu.

Of course, this self-presentation is not believable. Meghan was not a sheltered 19-year-old virgin when she married her prince, as was Diana. (The attempts to draw comparisons to Harry’s late, beloved mother throughout the series are simply torturous.)

The documentary ties the couple’s woes to a much more substantive meta-narrative – that of racism in Britain, including the history of slavery in the British empire. To illustrate this point, it details a series of racist microaggressions levelled against Meghan, who is of mixed race.

Racism is a hot topic, and the implication that Meghan got it particularly bad from the British press – and, by extension, the Palace – because she’s partly Black is heady stuff. Grandiose, perhaps, considering one of the most public spats to occur between Meghan and Catherine, the Princess of Wales, centred around the question of which wife made the other cry over bridesmaid dresses.

Look, if I’m being a tad snarky here, forgive me. There is a story buried deep within Harry & Meghan. Some of the tabloid treatment of Meghan was corrupted by racism and classism. I have no doubt that the attention the pair was subject to was, at times, unbearable. Fame sucks. It sucks all the more when trapped in a familial institution whose closest members cannot be trusted.

Where the documentary is most interesting is when it raises questions about the unspoken “contract” between the Royal Family, and the public it serves. It shows how members who live at this intersection of state duty and celebrity sacrifice their freedom and privacy to serve as titled members of society. Prince Harry and Meghan describe this contract as crassly transactional: The Royal Family takes taxpayer money and are therefore treated as fair game by the media.

I would argue that the contract is, in fact, deeper than that.

The family is the personification of the state itself, dignified by the unseen hand of God. It is a role that is irrational and privileged. It also demands duty and self sacrifice beyond what is asked of most public figures. In six full episodes, it’s notable that Meghan and Prince Harry spend little time talking about inconvenient virtues such as service, duty and sacrifice.

Prince Harry and Prince William were born into this system. They were the first royals to be raised fully in the mass media age. They did not sign the contract to which they have been indebted.

I think it’s fair to point out that there is some injustice here. Is it moral to subject future regal generations to this kind of scrutiny from birth?

I’m not sure it is. This is a tough life. It requires a degree of personal abnegation and a measured temperament. If the saga of Prince Harry and Meghan offers us nothing else, it’s that there ought to be an eject button for those who are unsuited to the royal lifestyle by dint of personality or ambition.

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