Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
A new royal biography about Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, has created a lot of tension within the royal family and the country. The book, called Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, due to be released in August, discusses the reasons for the young royals’ retreat from official duties in January this year, and of deeper rifts within the family. Needless to say, this has created quite a stir.
According to a spokesperson for the couple and the authors themselves, neither Meghan nor Harry have contributed to the book. That said, it incorporates many quotes from sources close to the couple, and is filled with very personal information about interactions within the highest level of the royal establishment. If everything is taken at face value in this book, the picture painted of the royal family, on a personal level, is damning.
It seems that most of the animosity is between brothers Harry and William, with details of personal conversations between them. The Sussexes appear to be subject to multiple affronts and indignities from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with Meghan in particular being a victim of malice from family and courtiers alike.
One particularly highlighted incident is a conversation between the brothers in the lead-up to Harry and Meghan’s wedding in May 2018 as William requested: “Don’t feel you need to rush this. Take as much time as you need to get to know this girl.” Whilst this seems like a reasonable request from an experienced, married older brother, Harry reportedly took offence at the wording of Meghan being called ‘this girl.’ The phrasing was perceived to be a judgement about her background and borne from snobbery.
Whilst this incident may be seen as a misunderstanding or an overreaction, there seems to be genuine dislike of Meghan from others, with unnamed persons referring to her as “Harry’s showgirl”, that “she comes with a lot of baggage” and “there’s just something about her I don’t trust.”
That said, all of this animosity seems very one-sided so far. The book appears to show Harry and Meghan as quite passive, and any opinion against them as unprovoked. We simply don’t know if things are that straightforward.
As Meghan is an American divorcee actress and mixed-race, she is obviously not the type of woman that many, especially inside Buckingham palace, would have expected Harry to marry. For many reasons, this could be a good thing, and many were hoping that she and Harry could breathe some new life and modernity into the British Monarchy. That said, unfortunately this will, and already has, created a lot of backlash around these qualities that a modern royal family should be embracing wholeheartedly. It is not surprising to think that many people within these circles would oppose her because she is different.
However, a lot of these slights and arguments quoted so far do seem to be misunderstandings and frankly, overreactions. Anger that a photo of Harry, Meghan and their son Archie was not displayed on the desk during the Queen’s Christmas message, seems a bit much. As the intention was to emphasise the line of succession, of course Harry wouldn’t be there.
The book has also received a lot of negative attention by British press. When the couple announced that they were stepping down from official royal duties in January this year, many took the attitude that they were ungrateful, self-pitying and that the country was well rid of them. The Sun has regarded the new book as “a bloodbath.” They labelled the actions and attitude of the Sussexes as “stunning — the arrogance, the hubris, the self-regard, the self-pity, the lack of self-awareness… You can see how we went right off them.”
Finding Freedom, despite being intended as a defence of the royal couple and their decisions, has not done them any favours. Apparent attempts to justify and explain have been interpreted as whining and exaggeration. Moreover, any perceived affront to the Queen, popularly seen as the grandmother of the nation, have not been received kindly by significant proportions of the British public.
It also should be noted that any accusations thrown against Prince William may also be very damaging in years to come. As the second in line to the throne, he will be King someday. A long-term rift with his only brother, living in virtual exile, may turn out to be a problem later on.
Finally, on a family level, the claims and disputes made public by Finding Freedom may well have burned the last bridges of reconciliation. The royal family is incredibly private, and the Queen’s brand of stoicism has gotten her through many a personal crisis in her reign. It seems that as well-intentioned as the authors of Finding Freedom may be, it may have been better to say nothing.