Why everyone’s talking about the Sussexes’ Netflix docu-series

A version of this story appeared in the Oct. 21 issue of CNN’s Royal News, the weekly installment that brings you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.


For a series that was technically never announced, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s upcoming documentary.

For those caught up, things started when entertainment industry website Deadline reported that Netflix was “shocked” by the criticism of the upcoming season of “The Crown” and as a result, the streamer decided to push the release in Sussex. ‘ show from December until next year.

The final season of “The Crown,” which airs Nov. 9, is reaching back to the 1990s, a tumultuous decade for the family that saw three royal weddings and a decline in Windsor’s public opinion.

Critics called Netflix’s decision to release the new season so soon after Queen Elizabeth II’s death as insensitive. And former British Prime Minister John Major, played by Dominic West in the next season, dismissed the rumors as “harmful and malicious fiction”.

Other outlets later addressed the report of the documentary’s delay. Britain’s Telegraph quoted friends of the Sussexes as insisting it would still be released in December.

Whatever the truth about the docu-series’ launch date, it seems that Netflix was worried about the negative response to the last series of “The Crown.” A source close to the player told CNN: “They’re running around like headless chickens.”

It’s not hard to see why. The last series was filmed before the death of Queen Elizabeth, which changed the context significantly. “There’s this perfect storm of the Queen dying, the most controversial series of ‘The Crown’ about to come out, and there’s a new king coming in, and he’s realized that this can be really damaging,” the source said.

Part of the theme, the source added, is that the latest series deals with events in living memory, with participants who are still alive and remember the reality. “When you have a conversation with a fictional secretary, Winston Churchill, nobody cares. When people in the room – the bedrock of British society – are still alive and you’re able to check the facts, you’ve got a problem.”

CNN reached out to Netflix, but did not hear back at the time of writing.

The whole story surrounding the Sussexes’ docu-series has been shrouded in mystery. Everyone knows Harry and Meghan signed a multi-year production deal with Netflix a few years ago, but the series wasn’t officially announced like other projects the service was developing.

That’s what the interview with the duchess said on Wednesday, until she confirmed that she was, in fact, in the works.

Meghan acknowledged that filmmaker Liz Garbus is directing the docu-series, telling Variety that it was “nice to trust someone with our story — a talented director I’ve long admired.”

The Duchess of Sussex fronts the latest cover of Variety magazine.

She also said, “It’s interesting. My husband has never worked in this industry. For me, having worked on ‘Suits,’ it’s amazing to be around so much creative energy and see how people work and share their perspectives. That it’s been a lot of fun.”

However, the duchess noted that there are also elements of the project that are out of her and her husband’s hands. “We’re entrusting our story to someone else, which means it’s going to be through their lens,” he said.

It’s also worth noting that we’re still waiting for Harry’s much-anticipated memoir – expected in the autumn – which could raise anxiety levels among royal staff.

We’re unlikely to hear about the royal family or Buckingham Palace in any of Netflix’s offerings. It has long been policy not to comment on fictional depictions of the Windsors, while recent protocol has been to avoid commenting on criticism of various Sussex family members.

But the challenge for the royals is how to manage the consequences of such shows, especially when there is a very real possibility of influencing the international perception of the family. This is a new monarchy and a test for King Charles III, and he may feel the need to face it.

The Queen’s death was a “complicated time”, says Meghan.

In the aforementioned interview with Variety, the Duchess of Sussex touched on the Queen’s legacy, calling her the “shining example” of female leadership. The wide-ranging interview, which was conducted before the Queen’s death but has since been updated, featured the duchess opening up about her love of cooking and what it’s like to share an office with Prince Harry, and sparked speculation she could return to acting. Read it here.

The Queen and Meghan share a laugh at an event in 2018.

King Charles to welcome the second Prime Minister of his reign.

UK Prime Minister Liz Truss mentioned in her resignation statement on Thursday that she had spoken to “His Majesty the King” Charles III to inform him that she would be resigning. He renounced the royal post of Prime Minister for 71 years. One of the Queen’s last acts before her death in September was to appoint Truss. Boris Johnson met the Queen on the same day to announce his resignation as Prime Minister. The last prime minister to resign from a king was Clement Attlee, who in 1951 announced his resignation to King George VI – father of Queen Elizabeth and grandfather of Charles III. Jorge VI died in 1952.

The first weekly audience for The King and Truss was on October 12th.

Celebrating a new member of the commonwealth.

King Charles welcomed the President of Gabon – one of the latest countries to join the Commonwealth’s list – to Buckingham Palace on Monday. The monarch was pictured smiling broadly as she shook hands with President Ali Bongo Ondimba. Meanwhile, the Christmas flag was raised at Commonwealth headquarters, Marlborough House, to mark the country’s accession to the organisation. Commonwealth leaders approved Gabon’s request, as well as Togo’s, at the organization’s meeting of heads of government in Kigali, Rwanda, in June. Neither country has historical ties to the Commonwealth, which currently has 56 members.

Christmas flags are flown alongside the Commonwealth flag at the organization's headquarters in London on October 17 in a ceremony to mark the accession of Christmas to the Commonwealth.

(CNN’s Richard Allen Greene contributed to this piece.)

The city of Uvalde, the Archewell Foundation and KABOOM!  unveiled a new playground designed to help the community recover after the tragedy in May.

Harry and Meghan have helped build a playground in Uvalde, nearly five months after an elementary school in the Texas city suffered one of the deadliest mass school shootings in US history. The couple’s Archewell Foundation joined forces with the city of Uvalde to “support community unity and healing by creating a play space for children and the community to enjoy,” according to KABOOM!, another of the project’s partners. The DeLeon Park playground is four blocks from Robb Elementary School, where 19 children and two teachers died in the May 24 shooting.

Local resident Mayra Vasquez said it was heartwarming to see the community come together around a positive initiative. “I’m excited to see so many families come together to work, have family gatherings and give our kids a chance to let off some energy and have fun at the end of the day,” said a press release from KABOOM! In the same statement, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said the city had a “long road to recovery” before praising the project for providing a way for the community to focus as they try to heal. “​​​​​​​We are grateful to gather support from KABOOM!, Archewell and others committed to the long-term health and well-being of Uvalde children and families,” he added.

The Duchess of Sussex made a private visit to Uvalde after the shooting. Quietly, he joined others to pay their respects at a memorial site near the school. Her spokeswoman said at the time that the trip was “made personally as a mother to personally offer my condolences and support to a community experiencing unimaginable bereavement.”

07 royal nl 1021 anne daniel craig

Aaron Chown/AP

British actor Daniel Craig received the same honor as his fictional character James Bond on Tuesday when Princess Anne presented him with the Order of St Michael and St George. Craig was given the honor “in recognition of his outstanding contribution to film and theatre,” the royal family’s official Twitter account announced on Tuesday. The account shared a photo of King Craig receiving the honor and quoted a famous line from the Bond films: “We’re expecting you.” According to the UK government, the honor usually “recognizes outstanding and distinguished contributions to foreign and international affairs” by such senior diplomats. The 54-year-old actor played the British secret service agent in the last five Bond films, making his first appearance in 2006’s “Casino Royale” and saying goodbye to 007 in 2021’s “No Time To Die.”

(CNN’s Allegra Goodwin contributed to this piece.)

Charles' work regularly depicts the royal family's properties, including Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House, and he has also produced watercolors in Turkey, Nepal and the Swiss Alps.

King Charles’ printing goes under the hammer.

A print of a painting of the king was almost 10 times larger when it was sold at auction on Thursday. The print is one of 100 paintings of Balmoral Castle, the Scottish royal residence where the Queen stayed before her death, and was part of Bonhams’ “The Scottish Home” auction.

“As an auctioneer I’ve never seen so many commission bids submitted before an auction,” said Hamish Wilson, chief valuer at Bonhams, referring to bids made before a live auction. “I think that speaks for itself.”

The auction, which was attended online by potential buyers from around the world, was streamed live on the Bonhams website. Get the full story here.

“Please take care of this bear.”

The official Twitter account of the royal family.

So read a note about the name of the London station where Paddington Bear, a beloved character from children’s literature, was found around the neck. Michael Bond’s 1958 book “A Bear Called Paddington” follows the adventures of the little orphaned bear as he travels from Peru to the British capital, where – through his unfailing kindness – he is taken in by the Brown family.

While the Queen will always be remembered for her corgis, her relationship with the little bear holds a special place in British hearts. In a video for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, the Queen joined her beloved bear for tea and shared her signature jam sandwiches. Watch the sketch here.

The unlikely friendship so touched the country that after the monarch’s death, Buckingham Palace had to ask mourners not to leave marmalade sandwiches among the floral tributes. More than 1,000 bears were left to him, and he later packed up the mansions and gave them to a children’s charity. Read more here.