The amazing thing about Finding Freedom, the new and probably-not-unauthorized biography of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, is that it miraculously manages to reinforce every single one of your existing beliefs about the couple, no matter what they happen to be.
A fan? The book does everything in its power to demonstrate how thoroughly unwelcome the royal family and Buckingham Palace staff made Meghan feel, with courtiers sniping behind her back and Harry’s own brother being “snobbish” and “condescending” when it came to discussing her.
Examples of this behavior come thick and fast in the excerpts that have recently been published in The Times. Kate Middleton apparently once ran into Meghan, before she married Harry, on the grounds of Kensington Palace; they discovered they were both going shopping on the same street, but Kate didn’t offer Meghan a ride. Observers noticed that it seemed as if the various royal households would attempt to undermine each other by scheduling conflicting social-media posts and events. One member of the palace staff referred to the Sussexes as “the squeaky third wheel” of the monarchy. If you’re of a certain disposition, then this book will underline precisely how Harry and Meghan’s break from the royal family was less a decision and more a complete emotional necessity.
Courtiers sniping behind her back and Harry’s own brother being “snobbish” and “condescending” when it came to discussing her.
But then again, this is a book—filled with such specific information that it appears to have been written with the support of its subjects, if not their full cooperation—called Finding Freedom. As Piers Morgan has pointed out in the Daily Mail, intentionally or otherwise it implicitly draws a line between itself and Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. One of those books is about a man who spent 27 unimaginable years toiling away at hard labor on Robben Island. The other is about two rich people who decided to move out of a nice palace in England and into a nice mansion in Los Angeles without gaining or losing any tangible responsibilities. You could argue that a closer comparison could be found in Finding Nemo, in which a young clown fish leaves his family and everything immediately goes wrong.
The other key text when discussing Finding Freedom is Andrew Morton’s Diana: Her True Story, the gossip-filled 1992 biography that served as Princess Diana’s method of severing all ties with the royal family. That book became a sensation for its blockbuster revelations of alleged infidelity and attempted suicide by the future king of England’s wife, putting the royal family under more strain than at any time in living memory.
One member of the palace staff referred to the Sussexes as “the squeaky third wheel” of the monarchy.
But, again, it isn’t a fair comparison. Finding Freedom has none of the shock of Morton’s book—one of its biggest revelations is that Harry issued a statement to the press while Prince Charles was trying to publicize a trip to the Middle East, and it made Prince Charles feel “disappointed”—plus, it’s about two figures who are now, in terms of the monarchy, utterly irrelevant. The Times ran three days of exclusive extracts from the book last week; the well ran dry so quickly that by day three it was resigned to printing descriptions of the wallpaper in a bar where Harry and Meghan once had a drink.
So what’s the point of the book? The extracts are so sympathetic that they seem like a clear attempt by Harry and Meghan to show the world who they really are. But that can’t be the case, because this is a couple so fixated on maintaining their own privacy that surely they’d never stoop so low as to help out with a tawdry tell-all book. Or maybe this is a gentle reminder to the world that they’ve both still got the unqualified star power that, as the book incredibly claims, “might eclipse that of the royal family.”
Whatever the intention, it seems likely that history will look back at Finding Freedom as a document of what gets left behind when you remove the royalty from members of the royal family. If the paucity of the extracts are any indication, the answer is not an awful lot.
Stuart Heritage is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL based in Kent, U.K.