Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's 5 Most Dramatic Lifetime Movie Moments: How Did They Really Go Down?

Lifetime's Harry & Meghan: Escaping the Palace dramatizes Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's exit from life as working royals — here's how it unfolded in real life, including the Sussexes' own words

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Prince Harry (Jordan Dean) and Meghan Markle (Sydney Morton) in Lifetime's Harry & Meghan: Escaping the Palace. Photo: Lifetime

Lifetime's Harry & Meghan: Escaping the Palace premiered on Monday night, offering the network's latest onscreen interpretation of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's rocky road as royals.

Combining tabloid fodder with the Duke and the Duchess of Sussex's own account of months of tumult and "private suffering," the movie spans the timespan just after the couple welcomed son Archie, now 2, until and through the continued repercussions resulting their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021.

Of course the movie adds a few dramatic flourishes to the events contributing to Harry and Meghan's exit from royal life, but PEOPLE extensively covered these often public flashpoints, with insights from sources close to the royals.

Below, compare Lifetime's take on Harry and Meghan with how things went down as they happened (warning: spoilers ahead)...


Harry Meghan Lifetime movie
Prince Harry (Jordan Dean) and Meghan Markle (Sydney Morton) in Lifetime's Harry & Meghan: Escaping the Palace. Lifetime

Before Escaping the Palace, Lifetime first chronicled Harry and Meghan's courtship and engagement in A Royal Romance, then imagined the newlyweds' attempts to navigate their new life both publicly and privately in Becoming Royal.

The action of Escaping the Palace, essentially begins after the couple's second anniversary as Meghan and Harry (played in this movie by Broadway vets Sydney Morton and Jordan Dean) make their first appearance after the birth of baby Archie at Queen Elizabeth's official birthday celebration, Trooping the Colour, in 2019.

In the scene, we see the first signs of how the strictures of royal life are negatively impacting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with Harry testily telling Meghan to "Turn around!" during the traditional flypast. Meghan, still unused to the palace's rules (and smarting from media criticism), heeds her husband's words as she holds back tears.

And while Harry and Meghan's drama was front-and-center in Lifetime's retelling, in real life the new parents were intentionally sidelined in accordance royal protocol.

Meghan "was not as prominent perhaps as some people might have expected, but there's a pecking order," Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine told PEOPLE. "There was no slight intended, but William being the older, more senior brother would go out [first] with his wife [Kate Middleton]."

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Prince William (Jordan Whalen) and Kate Middleton (Laura Mitchell) with child actors playing Prince Louis, Prince George and Prince Charlotte in Lifetime's Harry & Meghan: Escaping the Palace. Lifetime

A palace source also revealed that the reason for the Sussexes' position stemmed from a more adorable reason: "There's no one laying this out, telling her where to stand. And there were a lot of kids who everyone would want at the front."

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Five months before the June Trooping parade, the Duchess had endured a real-life crisis point that she would wait more than two years to share.

The Duchess revealed in her Emmy-nominated interview with Winfrey that when she and Harry were scheduled to attend a performance at Royal Albert Hall in January 2019, she finally realized she could not ignore suicidal thoughts she later described as "real and frightening and constant."

Reflecting on that night years later, Meghan acknowledged, "I was ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry. But I knew that if I didn't say it — then I would do it. I just didn't want to be alive anymore."

Though Harry offered to attend the event alone, Meghan told him, "I can't be left alone." So they both put on a brave face and carried out their royal duties.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Paul Grover - WPA Pool/Getty

Meghan told Winfrey that when she looks at the photos from the night, she can see Harry's hand tightly gripped around hers: "[We were] both just trying to hold on." After they took their seats and the lights went down in the hall, she says she began "weeping."

"And that's I think so important for people to remember is you have no idea what's going on for someone behind closed doors. No idea," she said. "Even the people that smile and shine the brightest lights. You need to have compassion for what it actually potentially going on."

As Lifetime movies tend to do, Escaping the Palace took Meghan's revelations one step farther, visually connecting her suicidal ideations to those that Harry's mother, Princess Diana, had confessed in Diana: Her True Story.

Morton told PEOPLE last week, "There are some interesting parallels, I think, that we draw between Meghan's experience and some of Princess Diana's experience."


Harry and Meghan: Escaping the Palace

Escaping the Palace finds plenty of dramatic tension in the couple's last engagement as working royals before their official exit at the end of March 2020. In a private moment, Meghan shows Harry her dazzling green Emilia Wickstead dress, complete with "superhero cape," for the Commonwealth Day service in March 2020.

Once they convene with the other royals, the film suggests the Sussexes were excluded from the royal procession as retaliation for their impending departure, creating friction between Harry and William (Jordan Whalen). In the film, Kate (Laura Mitchell) smoothes the situation over, and future king William ultimately offers to also forego the procession to appease Harry.

While it's true the younger princes and their wives did not walk with the Queen that day, that wasn't necessarily a sign of Harry's status (or lack thereof) in the family. In reality, the royals taking part in the processional changes each year, depending on who is in attendance and seniority. In the four years prior to the service dramatized in the Lifetime movie, Harry attended all four services but joined the Queen in her walk just twice. Similarly, Kate and William had also headed straight to their seats for services in the past.

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Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Phil Harris - WPA Pool/Getty

And just the day before, Harry and Meghan had joined the Queen for a church service in Windsor. A source told PEOPLE at the time: "It was a really sweet gesture that the Queen asked them to church. It's telling in the sense that these two are still her family. And as a family, they all love each other."

That said, the Commonwealth Day service was naturally subject to a tremendous amount of scrutiny and speculation. It marked the first time Meghan and Harry had publicly reunited with other members of the family since they announced they were stepping down from their royal roles.


*EMBARGO UNTIL 4:30 PM EST 6/3/21* Actors Portraying Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Film Beach Scenes in Canada
From left, Melanie Nicholls-King as Doria Ragland with Sydney Morton as Meghan Markle, Jordan Dean as Prince Harry and a child actor as Archie in Lifetime's Harry & Meghan: Escaping the Palace. The Image Direct

Not much embellishment here: Harry and Meghan's brief stay on Vancouver Island and relocation to Los Angeles was pretty much as abrupt as the movie portrayed.

Just as the Sussexes were ready to set up their new life in the Commonwealth country where Meghan had lived for years, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into their plans. Instead of a leisurely search for homes in Meghan's hometown, plans to make a home in the States had to be expedited.

That said, a move to the L.A. area had been in the couple's plans, not least of which so Meghan would be able to get help with Archie (and eventually baby Lili, born in June 2021) from her ever-supportive mother, Doria Ragland.

And one critical element of Meghan, Harry and Archie's relocation to California came in the form of a real-life twist that played out like it was written for the movies.

"They're really grateful to Tyler Perry for his kindness," a source close to the couple told PEOPLE in August 2020 of the movie mogul's offer to provid security and housing for the displaced prince and his family. "They have endless gratitude to him for helping them during a complicated time."

Added the source, "With COVID and as they were stepping back from their royal duties, he provided them a safe haven."


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Oprah Winfrey at Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's wedding. Ian West - WPA Pool/Getty

Though the the couple's interview with the TV powerhouse clearly served as a cornerstone for the Escaping the Palace script, the revelatory interview itself only lasted for a few moment's in the Lifetime's retelling. That might have been intentional — and if nothing else, the actors made a conscious choice not to be constrained by to every breath and tic from the March 2021 broadcast.

"There's pressure to the Oprah interview, I think, because so many people had seen it," Dean told PEOPLE in an exclusive interview ahead of the movie's premiere. "But I tried not to let that sway me or put any undue weight, tried to make my own interpretation of it and not be bogged down with like, 'Oh, well he crossed his leg on this word,' or 'He would have done this.'"

RELATED VIDEO: Find Out About the Bond Lifetime's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Shared Before 'Escaping the Palace'

Morton had her own approach: "I definitely watched it a few times and listened to it. I really like listening to them speak more than watching because it can be a little more open to interpretation. Like Jordan said, we didn't just want to recreate every single movement and mannerism."

According to Dean, "I felt like we had to live in the moment and work with our director and the rest of the team and kind of make it our own version of that and not be so bogged down in the minutiae of those moments."

Calling the interview "very vulnerable," Morton also noted, "When you're bringing that to life, there's a lot to use there as an actor, so it actually was an enjoyable day of shooting because I think we really were grounded and working off of each other."

Harry & Meghan: Escaping the Palace, as well as all the network's previous royals movies, are available to stream on the Lifetime Movie Club app.

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