Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan returned to the U.K. and are staying at their former home at Frogmore House on the Windsor Castle estate. USA TODAY
If you believe Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan, they had nothing to do with a new book that purports to tell their side of the stunning story of why they quit their royal roles earlier this year to much lamenting and rending of garments around the world.
But then you could be excused for wondering how two sympathetic journalists got their hands on such things as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s private text messages – and even Meghan’s own thoughts – to produce “Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family.”
If there is one takeaway from the book, published Tuesday following weeks of arranged excerpts in the British and American media and a global promotional campaign, it clearly could not have been written without Harry and Meghan’s cooperation, even if indirect.
Copies of “Finding Freedom” are stacked up in Waterstones Piccadilly in London. (Photo: Chris Jackson, Getty Images)
“Finding Freedom” authors Harper’s Bazaar royal editor Omid Scobie and Elle magazine royal correspondent Carolyn Durand, are two longtime members of the royal press corps and admitted admirers of the couple.
Victoria Arbiter, CNN’s royal commentator and the daughter of a former royal press secretary, says the book (which the authors say is the product of interviews with 100 sources, virtually all unnamed) is covered in the Sussex’s fingerprints.
“The authors have clearly stated Harry and Meghan were not interviewed for the book, but there are many ways they could have left their mark without commenting directly,” Arbiter told USA TODAY.
“The book contains deeply personal texts, feelings and accounts that frankly could only have come from Harry and Meghan, which suggests they gave permission to their friends to speak on their behalf. Given how loyal their close circle remains, I don’t believe any friend would voluntarily speak to a journalist without prior permission. In my view that would be the ultimate act of betrayal.”
More: Harry and Meghan file privacy lawsuit to stop ‘disgusting and wrong’ sale of Archie photo
The book traces the arc of the relationship of Harry, 35, and Meghan, 39, with each other, with the royal family, with the British media and with the public. How did such a promising beginning – when it looked as if they could help burnish the brand of a fusty, 1,000-year-old monarchy – end with their fleeing to North America in search of more independence and privacy, leaving behind angst and recriminations?
Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan of Sussex arrive at the annual Endeavour Fund Awards in London on March 5, 2020. (Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth, AP)
Scobie and Durand spend some time dismissing reporting by tabloids.
The alleged tussle over Meghan’s wedding tiara? It didn’t happen, the book asserts. Did the “diva” duchess make Duchess Kate of Cambridge, her sister-in-law-to-be, cry at a dress fitting? Nope, not true, according to the authors’ source who was there. Were the two duchesses often at odds after the wedding? They weren’t best friends but they “were not at war,” the book says.
Some other takeaways from the book:
Prince William and Prince Harry on Sept. 5, 2017 in London. (Photo: Toby Melville, AP)
The source of stress between Harry and brother Prince William
The book asserts the much-reported tensions between the beloved sons of lost Diana began soon after Harry introduced his new girlfriend to Will, 38, who cautioned Harry about moving too quickly in the relationship. His words, “Take as much time as you need to get to know this girl,” were interpreted by Harry as “snobbish” and condescending, the book says.
“William may have felt he was acting out of concern but Harry felt offended that his older brother still treated him as if he were immature,” the book says, quoting a friend of Harry’s as saying the younger prince was infuriated at his brother.
By the time Harry and Meghan left the United Kingdom for good in March, the two were barely speaking, and their last, awkward joint engagement, at the Commonwealth Day ceremony at Westminster Abbey, saw Will and Duchess Kate barely looking at let alone greeting Harry and Meghan.
They have since begun talking again, via video calls during the pandemic. Harry has said he will always be there for his brother, but there’s no denying that they are indeed on “different paths” now.
More: Michelle Obama, Duchess Meghan join forces for female empowerment at virtual summit
Meghan may have failed to fully grasp the restrictive realities of royal life
Even before their May 2018 wedding at Windsor Castle, former TV actress Meghan Markle found it difficult to deal with the role of palace courtiers who keep the royal show running behind the scenes.
Some of them were not Meghan fans. At least one “high-ranking courtier” was overheard telling another, “There’s just something about her I don’t trust,” while an unnamed member of the family referred to her as “Harry’s showgirl.” Such talk got back to Harry, who was furious about it.
“Although Harry had warned Meghan (early on) that his life was ‘surreal,’ even he was blindsided by the kind of (intense) coverage she elicited” soon after the start of their relationship in the summer of 2016, the book says.
There’s a hierarchy in the royal family, not to mention age-old customs and traditions, such as not speaking publicly about political matters. By contrast, Meghan spoke up – about women’s empowerment, as an example.
The Sun newspaper’s story of Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s retreat from royal life is shown at a newsstand in London, on Jan. 9, 2020. (Photo: FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA, EPA-EFE)
The couple also were dissatisfied with the “slow-moving” royal press operation, which preferred to not respond to most negative media coverage, whereas Harry and Meghan wanted a more proactive approach to slapping down coverage they considered inaccurate or poisonous.
Was Meghan a victim of racism?
The book describes a disturbing pattern of racist postings on social media aimed at Meghan, who is the first biracial American divorcée and ex-actress to marry into the British royal family. At one point, a picture of Meghan wearing black nail polish at the British Fashion Council awards had to be taken down from the council’s Instagram because of racist comments. “It was open season on Meghan,” the book says.
Duchess Meghan of Sussex reads to son Archie who turned 1 on May 6, 2020. The image is taken from a video published on the @SaveChildrenUK campaign Instagram page. (Photo: Duke of Sussex/@SaveChildrenUK)
The authors argue there was “no justification” for some of the media coverage in the tabloids, which began with describing Harry’s new girlfriend as “Straight outta Compton” and labeled her mother in Los Angeles as a “dreadlocked lady from the wrong side of the tracks,” the book says.
Racism in the U.K., the book asserts, takes the form of defining being “British” as being born there and being white. “The idea of a non-white person moving into the House of Windsor ruffled feathers,” the book says.
When a member of the royal family wore a racist brooch to a family Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace, the book says that “in the back of Meghan’s mind, she wondered if there wasn’t a message being sent.” How do the authors know what was in the back of Meghan’s mind? They don’t explain.
More: Prince Harry says defeating racism will take ‘every single person on planet’
Was Megan a victim of anti-Americanism?
The culture clash between British reserve and American openness was almost as toxic.
The book describes palace aides as “biased” against her because she is American and too direct. Her “American matter-of-fact tone is viewed as abrasive in Britain,” the book says, quoting an anonymous source as saying, “This is a script that wrote itself as soon as you knew an American actress was coming into the royal family.”
Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan Markle married at Windsor Castle in May 2018. (Photo: Andrew Matthews/AP)
The run-up to the wedding and the Markle problem
The book delves deep into the fraught relationship between Meghan and her estranged father, Thomas Markle, and with her half-siblings, all of whom were paid by tabloids for negative comments and interviews about Meghan before and after the wedding.
The book describes a mania for interviews with any relative no matter how remote. “Good Morning Britain” even flew in the ex-wife of her half brother, whom Meghan barely knew. “Whether they were honest or not was beside the point. The public was hungry for any snippet of information about (Meghan) no matter the tone or motivation for the comment,” the book says.
The book also quotes extensively from a letter she wrote to her father after the wedding (which he did not attend due to health problems, he said), which is now the subject of her lawsuit against the tabloid Mail on Sunday for alleged copyright infringement and invasion of privacy after it published the letter.
The final days and a ‘step back’ from royal life
The last part of the book covers the chaotic and rushed handling of the announcement of their plans to “step back” from royal life, which created ill will in the royal family and among palace aides for the seeming disrespect to Prince Harry’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, who had the final say about the terms of their departure.
The book claims Harry and Meghan were “forced” into a premature declaration due to fear of leaks from disloyal palace courtiers, but quotes a senior aide as saying the couple would have gotten more of what they wanted if they had “handled things in a private and dignified way.”
Last SlideNext Slide
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/books/2020/08/11/finding-freedom-harry-meghan-tell-their-side-new-book/3340413001/