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Harry and Meghan's Netflix documentary adds to burgeoning media empire

Harry & Meghan documentary hits U.K.
Harry & Meghan documentary hits U.K. 01:59

When Prince Harry and Meghan relinquished their royal duties in 2020, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were soon faced with an urgent question: How to earn a living. 

Although they were well off by ordinary standards, Forbes last year pegged their net worth at a fairly modest $10 million, including the remains of Harry's inheritance from his mother, Princess Diana, and the equity the pair have in their California mansion. They were also financially cut off from the British Crown's estimated $34 billion estate.

The answer, ironically, was to cash in on public fascination with the glamorous couple who dared to flee the royal family's gilded cage, along with the incessant media scrutiny their official roles entailed. And despite the mixed critical reaction to their new Netflix documentary series, "Harry & Meghan," what is certain is the venture has made them much richer.

Here's what is known about the trailblazing royals' sources of wealth and income.

Harry's inheritance

Prince Harry told Oprah last year that the the couple had "no plan" when they moved to California in 2020 and relied solely on his inheritance from Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in 1997.

"I've got all my mom left me, and without that we would not be able to do this," Harry told Oprah.

According to the Independent, Diana left an estate worth nearly 13 million pounds to be split by her two sons, which grew to 20 million pounds by the time they could legally access it at age 30. That means Harry's share was roughly 10 million pounds, or $12.2 million at current exchange rates.

That money was partly diminished by the $3 million they repaid to cover renovations made on the couple's U.K. residences — costs that were initially covered by British taxpayers.

Harry and Meghan have about $5 million in equity on their mansion in Montecito, California, which carries a mortgage worth nearly $10 million, although they are reportedly looking to move, according to TMZ.

Meghan's acting

Before the couple married, Meghan was an actor, then known as Meghan Markle, and ran a lifestyle blog. The bulk of her income came from her appearances on the USA Network drama series "Suits," for which she was paid $50,000 per episode.  

She entered the marriage with a net worth of about $5 million, according to the Independent.

Netflix deal

After breaking with the royal family, Harry and Meghan founded Archewell Productions, an offshoot of their nonprofit organization, with the stated goal of creating "programming that informs, elevates and inspires." The company signed a multiyear production deal with Netflix estimated to be worth between $100 million and $150 million, according to Deadline and Us Weekly.

The first three episodes of their first documentary series — an intimate look at their personal lives — was released this week.

Under the multiyear deal with Netflix, the couple will produce documentaries, scripted shows, feature films and children's programming, although they've said reality shows are out, according to Town & Country. One series in development follows participants in the Invictus Games, a charity founded by Harry that offers athletic events to injured military veterans, CNN reported last year.  

But planned animated series created by Meghan, known by its working title "Pearl," was one of several programs scrapped by the streaming service this year, as a result of cutbacks.

A memoir with Penguin

Harry's memoir, "Spare," which the Associated Press dubbed "an object of obsessive anticipation," is set to be released by Penguin Random House next month. According to the publisher, the book will deliver "raw, unflinching honesty" as well as "insight, revelation, self-examination and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief."

Harry received an advance of $20 million last year when he sold the book, Page Six reported. The deal includes as many as three other books from the couple, as reported by Vanity Fair. The publisher has also agreed to make two charitable donations totaling $1.6 million as part of the deal, th BBC reported

Meghan last year also published a children's book, The Bench. It's unknown how much she was paid for it, but one branding expert told the Daily Mail the advance could be as high as $600,000.

Spotify podcasts

Through Archewell Audio, Meghan and Harry also produce podcasts for the streaming service Spotify under a three-year deal. Meghan's first podcast with the company, a series called "Archetypes," has featured guests such as Judd Apatow, Amanda Gorman, Mindy Kaling, Issa Rae and Serena Williams. This week the series won the People's Choice Award for podcasting.

Forbes and the New York Post have estimated the deal to be worth between $15 million and $25 million, respectively— a stark difference from what most creators earn on the platform, which often amounts to a fraction of a penny per stream.

The couple also have plenty of other creative endeavors whose financial value is unknown. Before Harry left the royal family, he had inked a deal with Oprah to executive produce an Apple TV series on mental health. Harry and Meghan have also signed on with speaking agency Harry Walker, whose roster of A-listers includes the Clintons, the Obamas and Oprah.

To be sure, the young couple and their two children likely have substantial expenses, not least of which includes security services. Given this reality, and the uncertain value of some recent mega-deals, estimates for their net worth vary widely — from as low as $10 million, according to Forbes, to $60 million, according to Hello and Women's Health Magazine.

But with a budding media empire taking shape, it's likely that number will rise sharply in coming years.

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