We’ve long argued that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s love story has some not-so-subtle parallels with the teen movies we grew up with. Commoner falls in love with tearaway Prince? It’s a storyline straight out of The Prince and Me. Californian learns the ins-and-outs of a stuffy European monarchy? Paging Mia Thermopolis in The Princess Diaries… It was hardly a surprise, then, to learn that the Lifetime Channel – the spiritual home of schmaltzy, based-on-a-true-story fare – have turned the Prince and the Suits star’s courtship into a TV movie.
With the royal wedding drawing nearer, Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance has finally had its UK premiere, airing on Lifetime last night (terrestrial viewers can catch it on May 19th at 3pm on Channel Five). If William & Kate: The Movie took some liberties with the truth, Harry & Meghan steps things up a notch, with Princess Diana disguised as a symbolic lion, Meghan reciting catchphrases from her own interviews and near-constant references to The Crown. Naturally, we had many, many thoughts (66, in total) on the subject...
- It's 1997, we're in Botswana, and we can tell that the production budget has been upped since William & Kate: The Movie, because this looks like it was filmed on location - if not in actual Botswana, then definitely on a location, somewhere.
- This film apparently takes place in a parallel reality where Alan Partridge is Prince of Wales, because Fake Prince Charles is eerily reminiscent of Steve Coogan.
- As Fake Prince Charles gazes out onto the hills and meditates on life and death, I'm concerned he's going to start quoting The Lion King.
- 'You're not going to start quoting The Lion King, are you?' says a baby-faced Prince William. What's worse: that a fake teenage royal stole my joke, or that I'm making the same jokes as the people who write Lifetime scripts?
- Baby Prince Harry is not one for light holiday chat. 'Why did you make us walk behind the coffin?' he shouts, apropos of nothing. Absolute buzz kill.
- People's princess alert! Less than five minutes in, we have our first Diana flashback. If you half close your eyes, this woman isn't actually a bad likeness - someone call Netflix...
- I take it back. Diana has honed her British accent by listening to Keira Knightley in Love Actually, and whenever she opens her mouth all I can hear is 'I look quite pretty, don't I?' Plus, there is no hiding the fact that Baby Harry is, in fact, Scottish.
- Back to Botswana, where a tiny ginger child is facing down... a lion. Is this symbolism?
- Meanwhile, Baby Meghan is so right on, her Barbie dolls take on unconventional gender roles. She gets an inspiring pep talk from a Thomas Markle doppelganger which, in light of recent events, feels a little... poignant?
- We've moved into the present-ish day, with an actress (Parisa Fitz-Henley, genuinely well-cast) playing Meghan Markle played Rachel Zane on Suits. Meta.
- It's time to re-enact something which Meghan once mentioned in an interview. Critical of her show's insistence on gratuitous nudity, she isn't afraid to let her director know her thoughts - while making a joke about how this is Suits, so shouldn't she be wearing a Suit at all times? Suits.
- Mahiki montage! The Party Prince is here, in the club, probably listening to Pitbull, definitely spraying women with prosecco.
- In A Royal Romance, Prince Harry is the ultimate third wheel: he actually lives in a tiny room in William and Kate's house, and waits for Wills to come and open the curtains - with added scolding - each morning.
- It's important to note that Prince William has aged a lot since his last Lifetime movie outing. He's now 47, if a day.
- William's great PR tactic? 'I just shove Kate out there and she makes me look good!' Cue braying laughter. Shove, really?
- It's over to Prince Charles's house for another telling off about tabloid headlines. 'Thank God your Grandmother didn't see [the pictures]. It would've killed her!' he says. Is this... treason?
- From some angles, Fake Kate could be Real Kate. From others, she could be breakfast TV star Susannah Reid.
- Meghan's Suits pals are just the least supportive gang of film friends since The Devil Wears Prada, warning her that she's 'not getting any younger' and that she should settle down with the nearest available man ASAP. Luckily, Meghan is an independent woman of the modern age, who has no time for such retrograde thinking.
- Ahead of the fateful blind date, Meghan's 'Is he nice?' line from her engagement interview has made it into the script. Harry, meanwhile, asks 'Is she hot?' to which his friend replies 'If you weren't a Prince, you wouldn't have a shot,' establishing herself as our favourite walk-on character.
- After arriving 40 minutes (NB. this has not been verified by the Palace) late for his date, Harry then deploys the line 'I'm kind of... the Prince of England?' (NB. this is probably not his actual title)
- In an endearing game where Fake Harry and Meghan share their favourite things with one another, we learn that Harry loves Love Actually and Sail Away by Enya, so is essentially... me?
- Like all good dates, this one ends in the early hours of the morning, with a poetry reading.
- Afterwards, Meghan decides to occupy herself with a little light reading. Specifically, with a historical guide to The Crown.
- Phone call! 'What are you doing?' 'Oh I'm just... reading a tie-in book for a Netflix show that sensationalises your family history. What about you?' 'Funny, I'm... watching re-runs of your show on Netflix...'
- Harry has taken Meghan to Botswana, so it's time for an adorable holiday montage, interspersed with shots of William and Kate being panto villains. 'He Botswana-d her!' Wills shouts gleefully, while stirring some tea and eyeing a traditional English breakfast of waffles.
- 'Americans are SO loud,' Kate eye-rolls as we cut to... Meghan being loud.
- Plot twist: the lion from scene one was Diana in lion form! 'It's like she was watching over you,' Meghan says, for those of us who missed the metaphor.
- Meghan's wrap dress with oversized statement sleeves is very 'Scandi influencer.' Ganni?
- No, Harry is not going to compare Meghan's experiences growing up as a woman of colour with being 'a ginger' in England. Oh wait, he is. Sigh.
- Side note: if anyone is actually enjoying this film, can I recommend A Christmas Prince on Netflix?
- 'She makes Wallis Simpson look like Dame Judi Dench,' Kate hisses. What is this supposed to mean? Who knows, but at least they gave Dame Judi her full title.
- I can't help wishing that they'd kept the original Wills and Kate from William & Kate, thus leaving the Royal Cinematic Universe intact.
- One of Meghan's Suits friends has concerns about her new life. But how does he express these concerns? Through a reference to The Crown. Is this sponsored content?
- Are we being asked to believe that Meghan quotes mantras from her own magazine interviews while staring at herself in the mirror? Yes, why not.
- It's time for Harry to bestow a beaded bracelet upon Meghan, 'so every time I see you on Instagram, or you see me in Tatler, it'll be like a secret message.' The romance.
- Harry's Halloween costume of choice is a frog - like the frog Prince. Get it?
- Oops - their cover has been blown, and now The Palace is on the phone. As in, Harry looks at his phone and shouts, 'It's The Palace!'
- Back on English soil, Harry is forced to explain the concept of a The Tig, Meghan's lifestyle blog, to the disgruntled elderly courtier who apparently moonlights as Prince Charles's PR advisor, leading to the best lines so far. 'That blog is part of her identity!' Harry fumes. 'It's a community of inspiration!'
- 'If she's your girl, she can't have opinions,' Robo-Kate simpers. Why do the writers have such a problem with Kate Middleton? (Answer: they're probably jealous of her flawless hair)
- Harry and Meghan are visiting the Cambridge family home, which absolutely, definitely has massive oil paintings of Princess Diana hanging wherever you look, which means it's time for Fake George and Charlotte.
- 'Hi, I'm George! You're pretty!' says Fake George. We all know he's a fake because he's dressed in long trousers, rather than wearing shorts all year round.
- Just like the William & Kate movie, A Royal Romance has a token Nasty Posh Girl, seeking to thwart our couple's happiness. This one is called Bella, and she's sprinkling upper class shade over everything from Meghan's profession to her first marriage.
- Do not touch Meghan's hair.
- According to Prince Harry, Bella is 'a troll.'
- Media interest has now reached a peak, forcing Harry to put out a 'rash' statement warning the press away from Meghan. 'If you won't put this out as an official statement, I'll TWEET IT MYSELF,' Harry rages, striking fear into the hearts of social media managers everywhere.
- Cue a monologue from Meghan about just where their relationship has ended up. 'I'm not a princess, this ain't a fairytale, I'm not the one you'll sweep off her feet, lead her up the stairwell.' Sorry, those are actually Taylor Swift lyrics, but the sentiment - and imagery - is very similar.
- Thankfully, Meghan's mother Doria is the moral compass - and only sensible character - in this drama. And she's here with... video footage from the funeral of Princess Diana.
- Meghan's had a change of heart. If you were wondering when they'd fit in the obligatory 'I got off the plane sequence,' the answer is now. And for bonus points, Meghan manages to stop said plane by brandishing a selfie of her and Harry in a flight attendant's face.
- Pippa's getting married, and if the casting of Prince William was slightly cruel, the casting of James Matthews is the opposite: if anything, it's quite aspirational.
- Oh. They've included the racist brooch incident (albeit a slightly sanitised version.) Lifetime are not messing around here.
- As Bella is deploying nasty one-liners ('Your biological clock is practically at 11.59!') Kate appears to have undergone a total personality overhaul, demanding that she and Meghan stick together, as 'commoners'...
- ...Before things take a turn towards Gilead. 'Let's face it - my most important contribution to this country is my reproductive ability!' Kate smiles, her eyes empty.
- Wait - Kate just told Meghan that she's expecting. At Pippa's wedding. So if Prince Louis was born at the end of April, that means she was pregnant for a grand total of 11 and a half months. Science!
- Meanwhile Camilla (one part Judi Dench, two parts Patsy Stone) establishes herself as our hero with the line 'I love a dirty martini!' and a spectacularly hammy wink to camera.
- Meghan is eating avocado on toast. It was only a matter of time.
- We're back to Africa, where Harry and Meghan are doing 'charity work.' Eye roll.
- Time for the second Diana lion of the film.
- So, we have a sleepy proposal in bed. Where's the roast chicken we were promised?
- According to Fake Charles, it's fine if Harry moves to Canada - 'mother's on the currency there!' Los Angeles, though, is out of the question.
- Time for a brief run-down of the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 (it means that Harry has to get permission from his grandmother before heading down the aisle).
- It's time to meet the Queen, who - spoiler alert - wants to know if Meghan is 'involved with that programme, The Crown?' Do we detect yet more product placement?
- The next move from this wildcard of a Queen is to show Harry and Meghan a portrait of Queen Charlotte. 'I’ve always loved this portrait of our ancestor Queen Charlotte, because the painter, Ramsay, didn’t try to hide her African heritage,' she says. 'Oh yes, you’re of mixed race, Harry. So am I.'
- And it's finally time for the roast chicken proposal scene we all deserve.
- Meanwhile, the Queen is issuing commands by shouting at a group of military commanders while wearing a Claire's tiara. 'My grandson will be marrying a divorced African-American lady!' she yells. 'Everybody on board? Lovely!'
- And what better way to undercut the royal romance than with another reference to the Queen's mortality? 'I only hope I'm alive enough to meet some more beautiful grandchildren,' she says wistfully. Just as a quick recap, so far we've had a vendetta against Kate, an obsession with the Queen's frailty and Diana as a lion.
- Finally, Fake Meghan and Harry get into a Land Rover, but when they get out of the car... they're Real Meghan and Harry! Such is the magic of editing. Merry royal wedding, one and all.
Will you be watching the (real) royal wedding on May 19th? Here's our timeline of how events will play out on the day...
9:30am: Wedding guests begin to arrive
Wedding guests will begin to arrive – by coach, no less – from 9.30am until 11am, and will walk over to the South Door of St George's Chapel. Prepare to spot assorted Suits stars, Priyanka Chopra, Jessica Mulroney and the Beckhams.
11:20am: The royal family arrive in Windsor
Keep your eyes peeled from 11.20am as members of the Royal Family start to arrive at the Chapel, some on foot, others by car.
11:45am: Harry and William will arrive together
Prince Harry will arrive at St George's Chapel by foot, accompanied by his best man the Duke of Cambridge, and will enter via the West Steps. Here, they'll take the time to greet the members of the public gathered in the Castle precinct, including the charity representatives positioned at the Horseshoe Cloister (just outside the Chapel).
11:50am: Meghan will travel to Windsor Castle with her mother
At around the same time, Meghan and her mother, Doria, will leave their overnight location and travel to the Castle by car, passing through the Long Walk where members of the public are expected to gather. They'll briefly stop at the Castle, allowing Doria to travel on to the Chapel while Meghan is joined by bridesmaids and page boys ahead of her big entrance to the Chapel.
12pm: Meghan walks down the aisle
After Thomas Markle confirmed that he would no longer be walking his daughter down the aisle, having suffered a heart attack last week, it's assumed that Doria will accompany her daughter.
12pm: The wedding service begins
The wedding service itself will take about an hour, with a full order of service set to be unveiled to the public on Saturday morning. We already know that Lady Jane Fellowes, Harry's aunt and the elder sister of the late Princess of Wales will give the reading. All three of Diana's siblings will attend the ceremony, and Harry and Meghan have expressed happiness that they'll be able to celebrate her memory on the day.
1pm: The couple will greet charity representatives
Once they've officially tied the knot, the first thing that Harry and Meghan will do is to greet the 200 representatives from Prince Harry's chosen charities, who'll be gathered in the Horseshoe Cloister. In doing so, the couple are acknowledging how important these organisations will be in their future work; according to the Palace, they are 'delighted that these people who will be such an important part of their official work in the years to come will be the first people they see after the wedding.'
1:05pm: The carriage procession
Then, close family members will gather on the Chapel's steps to wave the couple off, as it's time for Harry and Meghan to step into their carriage (that's the same Ascot Landau that Pippa Middleton rode in at Will and Kate's wedding, in case you needed a refresher) and embark on a 25-minute procession around the castle and town. Hopefully neither of them have previous history with RSI, because all that royal waving could get very tiring. Meghan and Harry's guests will then file out of the church to catch the start of the carriage procession, before heading on to St George's Hall for the reception.
7pm: The couple head to Frogmore House
For all the national excitement, the wedding is a private event, and after the carriage procession, there won't be much left for us to see. The last thing that we'll be able to catch will be the moment that the bride and groom leave the Castle for Frogmore House, where the evening reception will take place.