Among the many scenes sparking heated debate in the “Harry & Meghan” docuseries, one moment stood out in particular for many viewers: when the former Meghan Markle demonstrated how she curtsied when she first met the queen.
In the clip, the Duchess of Sussex recalls preparing to meet the late Queen Elizabeth II for the first time.
“I didn’t know I was going to meet her until moments before,” Meghan said in a joint interview with Prince Harry in the second episode of their six-part Netflix docuseries.
“We were in the car and we were going to Royal Lodge for lunch. And (Harry) was like, ‘Oh, my grandmother is here. She’s going to be there after church,’” she continued. “I remember we were in the car, driving, and he’s like, ‘You know how to curtsy, right?’ And I just thought it was a joke.”
It was not a joke, however, and the duchess recalled quickly learning how to curtsy before meeting the monarch for the first time.
“Now I’m starting to realize this is a big deal,” the duchess said. “I mean, Americans would understand this.”
She also compared the experience to Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament, an American dinner theater production with Medieval-inspired events like jousting and sword-fighting.
Then, in a moment that has been dividing viewers, the duchess gave a deep, exaggerated bow, as if to demonstrate how she curtsied before Queen Elizabeth, before rising and saying with a wide smile, “Pleasure to meet you, Your Majesty.”
The scene has been making the rounds on social media, with some Twitter users calling the duchess “disrespectful” and accusing her of mocking the queen and royal tradition.
“Is that meant to be funny? Gosh the lack of respect,” one person tweeted, with another calling the moment “nasty and unbecoming" and comparing the duchess to a "school bully."
Others commented on Prince Harry’s reaction to the moment, saying they thought he looked uncomfortable.
“Meghan Markle’s mocking of the curtsey, and Harry’s reaction is just cringeworthy,” one person wrote on Twitter.
On the other hand, other viewers thought critics were missing the point of Meghan’s exaggerated curtsy, arguing the duchess was actually mocking herself with the gesture.
“She’s not mocking the Queen. She’s saying she didn’t realize she’d have to curtsy in private,” one person wrote on Twitter.
“Surely it was obvious when watching, #MeghanMarkle was making fun of herself!” another person tweeted. “How it’s turned into her making fun of the Queen and so on is beyond me.”
Writer Erin Vanderhoof echoed this view in a piece for Vanity Fair.
“Meghan is theatrically exaggerating her own unfamiliarity with the realities of being around the royals,” Vanderhoof argued. “She is the butt of the joke here, not the queen or even royal protocol.”
Esquire writer Tom Nicholson agreed, arguing in a recent op-ed that Meghan was “mocking her own cluelessness about the situation.”
The final three episodes of “Harry & Meghan” will drop on Thursday, Dec. 15.
Meghan and Harry’s Archewell Productions was one of three production companies involved in the series.
In a trailer for the upcoming episodes, Harry speaks of “institutional gaslighting” on the part of the royal family.
“They were happy to lie to protect my brother,” he says in the trailer. “They were never willing to tell the truth to protect us.”
Buckingham Palace has declined to comment on the series.