Book Reviews

Finding Freedom - Review

It is the bombshell royal biography that is less of an explosion and more of a whimper.

AUGUST 12th, 2020


Author: Omid Scobie & Carolyn Durand

© Getty Images


losing the hardback cover of the new biography, Finding Freedom, it is hard to comprehend just how catastrophic of a PR misfire it is for the book’s subjects, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Their story has had its fair shares of ups and downs. From the spectacular wedding in Windsor, to the eventual headline dominating departure from the Royal Family to Los Angeles, Harry and Meghan have consistently been at the centre of commentary in the media. Yet what was initially promised as a tell-all, bombshell account of the couple’s brief stint as working members of the Royal Family, Finding Freedom is anything but.

Ram-packed with arguably some of the most intimate and intrusive details on the couple’s relationship, thoughts and feelings; it is hard to see how the recent denials of colluding with the authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand are true. Within the first few sentences of the book; you can practically hear Harry and Meghan’s voices as they reminisce over their first date. From here the book retells the courtship of Britain’s (formally) most beloved Prince and the exciting, beautiful and independent Meghan Markle.

Cover of Finding Freedom - © HarperCollins

At such an early stage, the level of information is staggering. From the personal text messages shared by the couple, to the deep-rooted feelings of blossoming love, no stone is left unturned. Yet throughout the book these elements of attraction are presented with as much breadth as a Hallmark movie. .

There are parts which feel so removed from reality and engrained with such sycophancy that it becomes a struggle to turn the page. Take the description of a young teenage Meghan. Friends tell the authors that she was deemed “fake” because her classmates “felt it was impossible for anyone to be that perfect”. Other elements provide the most banal and irrelevant information about the future Duchess, including how Harry was “impressed with her packing skills” and how she always brings “tea-tree oil for bites, cuts and pimples.”

More impressive aspects of the Duchess of Sussex life are criminally omitted or brushed over with such insignificance that the aforementioned independent and impressive Meghan Markle vanishes beneath her amiable ability to go to the bathroom in the African bush.

Whilst the love story of Harry and Meghan will interest some, most will purchase this book to hear more about the clash with the royal institution and members of the Royal Family. And whilst the book doesn’t disappoint on tackling the breakdown of Harry and his brother Prince William’s relationship, or attempting to right the rumours of the “duelling duchesses,” there is nothing new here which hasn’t already been reported. What perhaps is the greatest irony of Finding Freedom, is in its attempt to tell Harry and Meghan’s side of the story, the authors have affectively proved the ‘evil’ tabloid journalist’s reports were accurate all along. The book quickly becomes less of a revelation and more of a rehash of the past.

Before its publication, royal insiders were predicting that the biography would be Harry and Meghan’s attempt to settle scores. With 368 pages of complaints, frustrations and point scoring, the couple have more scores to settle than the characters from Hamlet. Mostly it is the royal courtiers who bear the brunt of the couple’s anger, but members of the Royal Family also fail to come away unscathed.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex attend the Commonwealth Service © Getty Images

The Prince of Wales is accused of jealousy and placing his own public image above his duty as a father. Prince William is painted as a snob whose innocent brotherly advice for his younger brother “to take his time with this girl” is dismissed as sexism. Princess Eugenie takes offence at having her wedding ruined by the Sussexes as they revealed that the Duchess was pregnant at the ceremony. But there is one member who emerges with the biggest target on their back – The Duchess of Cambridge. Described as aloof, distant and unwelcoming, the bitterness towards the future Queen Consort is palpable.

Even Catherine’s success in launching Heads Together, the landmark mental health initiative which started as her brainchild, is attributed to Harry’s openness over his mother’s death.

Such distinct blame is placed at Catherine’s footsteps, that it feels as if the book transforms into a dairy of a spoilt teenager who bemoans their older sibling is responsible for every bad outcome.

And here lies the problem with Finding Freedom. A biography should be a dissection of the life and personality of the subjects it focuses on. This is best achieved when the authors are removed from said subjects. With limited to no influence, a fair and balanced account is easily achieved, yet Finding Freedom fails astronomically in accomplishing this outcome. At no point do Harry and Meghan admit to any mistakes, and the authors frequently fail to challenge the one-sided narrative.

One aspect which is starkly glossed over is Prince Harry’s questionable judgement with race. The book states: “During his 10-year career in the military, outside the royal bubble, he had learnt not to make snap judgements about people based on their accent, education, ethnicity, class or profession.”

Yet where is the acknowledgement on Harry’s comments to a fellow Pakistani soldier whom he described in a video as “my little p*** friend” and a “r*****d”? Where is the scrutiny such comments deserve against such a statement? They are almost non-existent.

The "Fab Four" at The Royal Foundation Seminar - © Getty Images

This proves the overriding feeling left after reading Finding Freedom. The hagiography is consistently inconsistent. From one chapter to another it almost seems as if both authors are battling one another. One moment Harry and Meghan are victims begrudgingly leaving the monarchy. The next, they’re the freedom fighters escaping the Royal Family, leaving the institution scrambling in their wake. It quickly becomes hard to keep up.

There have been numerous articles throughout the last three years that the couple have found faults with, and neither Harry nor Meghan have been frightened of telling us so. This book retells each controversy, each disgraceful dismissal of privacy with so much more veracity and distinct detail, and yet we have heard nothing from the Sussexes. No proclamations of anger or outrage, no statements on the invasion of their privacy – nothing. Why? The blatant lack of scrutiny.

And thus, it proves the narrative which has plagued Harry and Meghan as their time as members of ‘the Firm’: “willingly invade our private lives, and as long as you praise us for doing so, our lips are sealed.” They say silence is golden, and in the case of Finding Freedom, its agreement.

The book was promised to put the record straight. If anything, it has proved how much of a broken record Harry and Meghan’s story has become. Opening the first page with an open mind, willing to give the contents within a fair chance, quickly becomes impossible. Irrespective of whether the couple have helped directly or indirectly with the book, it paints a version of the couple they would undoubtedly not like to be seen as – whiney, uncompromising, miserable and self-centred.

As you close the book you are left wondering, if all of that was to find freedom, I’d rather stay caged.

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