On January 8, 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced that they were going to “step back” from their roles in the royal family, shocking the public and the courtiers and aides who made up the palace machinery. It hadn’t even been two years since their wedding, but the decisive move was a sign that things had gone very wrong behind the palace walls.
In the first episode of Vanity Fair’s DYNASTY: The Windsors, hosts Katie Nicholl,Vanity Fair royals correspondent, and staff writer Erin Vanderhoof look back on the chaos of that fateful day, and how it augured a run of strife and tragedy for the royal family that lasted more than a year. In March 2020, Harry and Meghan left the U.K., eventually moved to America, and started building their own life—but it wasn’t until they bared it all to Oprah Winfrey in March 2021 that the whole world understood just how fractured their fairy tale had become. When Harry faced his family at Prince Philip’s funeral the next month, things were icy. As Nicholl reveals during the episode, Harry spent the rest of that day with his cousins, toasting to their dearly departed grandfather, but the convoy carrying Prince William and Kate Middleton left Windsor soon after the funeral ended.
In 2022 the queen is celebrating 70 years on the throne, and during her reign she became one of the most photographed and beloved women in the world. But the monarchy she will inevitably leave behind will face serious challenges in the changing world. How will the Windsors adapt and survive? To answer that question, DYNASTY is going all the way back to the beginning. When Philip and then Princess Elizabeth announced their engagement in 1947, no one knew what to expect, but as royal expert Sally Bedell Smith explains, the union was one of the head and the heart. But their children struggled under the harsh glare of public life, and three of the four had tumultuous public divorces that shook the public confidence in the formerly put-together Windsor clan.