How will the Royal family react to Harry and Meghan’s latest tell-all TV show ‘attacks’?

The Sussexes’ story told over six episodes will be watched around the world on Netflix
The Sussexes’ story told over six episodes will be watched around the world on Netflix

The last time the Duke and Duchess of Sussex made jaw-dropping claims about the Royal family on television, it inspired the elegant, unforgettable response of “recollections may vary” from the late Queen.

On Thursday, as the couple tell more of their truth from their Californian sofas, their royal in-laws back in Britain face an era-defining dilemma: who will have the last word?

The Sussexes hope to lay out their final version of the events they say drove them out of Britain, set to launch an attack which shows every sign of including not just the “institution” and the press, but the Royal family directly as well.

Their story, told over six episodes, will be watched around the world on Netflix, with useful experts from their own lawyer to an as-yet-unnamed member of their family speaking emotively about what they have “witnessed”.

The Royal family have so far done their best to ignore it, with royal sources proclaiming themselves merely “weary” of the media circus and “getting on with the job”.

But if trailers are to be believed, the King and Prince of Wales will face provocation like never before via accusations of leakings, briefings and - particularly emotionally - a direct comparison between Meghan and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Will they be watching? Friends say no chance.

Will their advisors be ready to fill them in on the lowlights? Only the most naive would think otherwise.

Senior aides, paid to consider such matters so their principals don’t have to, are liaising closely, Prince William’s Kensington Palace and the King’s Buckingham Palace households these days making extra efforts to ensure they speak as one.

The “wait and see” approach of old is still there - why would they pre-empt the drama before they know exactly what the Sussexes will say? - but laced with an increasing allergy to allowing serious accusations to go unchallenged.

The reaction, says one seasoned palace observer, will depend entirely on what it said.

“The overriding desire is to sit above it all,” they said. “That’s been the story of the last few years.

“Classy statements rather than getting down in the mud with them, throwing accusations.

“A lot of this seems to be repeating things they [the Sussexes] have said before.

“If there is anything new, is it credible? Is it damaging? Is it cutting through to the public? If so, then some sort of action will need to be taken.”

If the trailer is to be believed, it is the Prince of Wales who will have the most cause to react. Both his wife and his late mother are featured squarely in promotional material, the comparison with Princess Diana used to illustrate the treatment of Meghan in dramatic scenes of the paparazzi chases of the 1980s and 90s.

He has already signalled a shift in his own royal mindset, saying after the now-notorious Caribbean tour that the “never complain, never explain” mantra is not fit for modern life.

He has made more personal statements, issuing notably heavy criticism of the Panorama documentary findings and responding to a shouted post-Oprah question about the Sussexes claims with a firm “we are not a racist family”.

But, cautions one royal source, “this is broader than any one person”.

In particular, said another, “this is the first big challenge for the King in his role of leading the institution.

“His reaction is going to be very revealing about how his reign is going to work. Will it be modern and reactive, or will it stick with ‘never complain, never explain’?

“The Sussexes will read a lot into that reaction, I think, and it will have consequences for their future behaviour.”

If the Queen’s reign can be characterised by the endlessly cited phrase “never complain, never explain”, the era of King Charles is yet to be determined.

The chances of the King authorising a legal complaint or excoriating public statement against his own son and daughter-in-law is vanishingly small.

Team Sussex say Harry and Meghan’s story is theirs to tell and allows their audience to make up their own minds
Team Sussex say Harry and Meghan’s story is theirs to tell and allows their audience to make up their own minds

But in an ever- changing world, as Buckingham Palace faced an unexpected race row, his household moved within hours to announce the resignation of a long-serving Lady-in-Waiting and an unambiguous condemnation of her “regrettable” comments.

On Thursday, as Prince Harry and Meghan’s story flies around the world in rolling updates, the Royal family will publicly carry on with their engagements.

Team Sussex, of course, would say that Harry and Meghan’s story is theirs to tell; no intended “bombshells” or “take-downs”, and simply new context to allow their audience to make up their own minds.

Their critics point to their habit of needing the “last word”.

The answer may lie in the one forgotten voice in all of this.

If the late Queen’s “recollections may vary” statement has gone down in history, there is one other - made at the time of the 2020 Sandringham Summit - that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex do not seem to have taken to heart.

Promising they would “always be much-loved members of my family”, the Queen Elizabeth II made public her wish that they would “start building a happy and peaceful new life”.

Happy and peaceful this is not. The least all sides can hope for now is that it’s true.