Royal Corner

Forever Finding Freedom

With Harry and Meghan airing their royal grievances in the public realm through the new biography Finding Freedom, when all is said and done, will it be worth it?

JULY 26th, 2020

© Getty Images


ill it be worth it?

As the extracts from the new biography on The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Finding Freedom, are released, that is the question left ringing in the air. With the Sussexes willingly airing their grievances with The Royal Family on the public stage, and the day-to-day headlines dominating the newspapers, the reaction from royal experts and the public seem to have answered a resounding – no.

Expectedly the glimpse into the biography has caused chaos, and it has become increasingly easy to see that this is what Harry and Meghan want. Settle scores and position ourselves as us against them. If Finding Freedom confirms anything, it is that the consistent protestations for privacy are as believable as the plotlines of Meghan’s former TV series, Suits. It has left many wondering if this type of misjudged carnage is what the couple were referring to when they stated a life of “thriving instead of surviving.”

The front cover of Finding Freedom by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand - © Dey Street Books

But away from the headlines, the contents of the book itself leave little to be desired. The promise of exclusives, revelations galore and a bombshell exposé rivalling Andrew Morton’s sensational 1992 biography Diana: Her True Story, has as of yet, failed to materialise. If anything, Finding Freedom feels less of a reveal, and more of a rehash – a biography that rakes over the bitterness of the past, one which the media has already covered.

Take the frosty interaction between the former “fab four” at the Commonwealth Service earlier this year. It didn’t take a psychoanalyst to notice that the Cambridges and the Sussexes were unhappy in each other’s presence. The new book claims that the icy atmosphere was down to a perceived snub by The Royal Family after Harry and Meghan were removed from the Queen’s procession alongside Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. “It felt intentional. Harry was more than disappointed,” a friend said, speaking in the book. “He spoke up, but the damage had already been done.”

Harry’s complaint resulted in William and Catherine opting to remove themselves from the procession line-up and walk in separately after the couple, in an attempt to ‘keep the peace.’ Though sources close to the couple claimed the Cambridges were annoyed at having to do so to satisfy the Duke of Sussex.

This “revelation” will come as no surprise to the many who followed the run-up to the Commonwealth Service. Merely twenty-four hours after the initial orders of service were made public, whereby the Sussexes were absent from the procession line-up, Buckingham Palace announced that The Cambridge’s would also no longer be walking behind the Queen, even though their names were still printed under the procession on the order of service. Many suspected, as did the media, that someone, somewhere had been unhappy at the claimed snub, and seen as Harry looked noticeably irritable throughout the entire service, it didn’t take long to speculate who. What is perhaps most confusing, is what has now been confirmed in the book was initially disregarded as tabloid fodder.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in front of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as they leave the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey earlier this year - © Getty Images

The book covers many re-revelations, from Prince William offering genuine brotherly advice to “take as much time as you need to get to know this girl”; the last two words which deeply offended Prince Harry resulting in him accusing his older brother of being ‘a snob’. To the couple feeling they were underserving of being on the side-lines due to their unrivalled popularity, both being details reported in the media since last year.

The authors have attempted to tell Harry and Meghan’s side of the story and in doing so shrouded them with the veil of victimhood. So why is it, that the more you read, the less sympathetic you become?

There could be many reasons. One is the lack of appetite for this sought of royal coverage. As we make our way through the pandemic, the soap-opera which is Harry and Meghan and their battle with the media and monarchy has become somewhat repetitive. The dramas of two privileged royals living in LA pales in comparison to the sacrifice of our NHS Frontline, or the scandal which has unfolded in our Care Homes. This new world we are now living in has moved on from seeing Harry and Meghan as victims, and if anything, no longer feel they warrant the label.

Secondly, the rest of the senior members of The Royal Family (excluding Andrew) have yet to put a foot wrong. The Queen’s speech to the Nation was deeply moving, providing the comfort and support the public were in desperate need of as the world was ripped apart by Covid-19. Prince Charles fought back from the virus and is actively working with the Princes Trust to provide help for those impacted by the economical fallout. The Duchess of Cornwall has been reading books to children and provided company to the elderly left locked inside their homes. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have donated £1.8 million worth of funding to ten mental health charities to provide assistance to our frontline workers. The Countess of Wessex has been phenomenal in supporting food banks and helping provide lunches for nurses and doctors bravely saving lives from the pandemic. Even Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie have been supporting children in school and providing free lunches for the NHS.

Harry and Meghan themselves have been helping out in LA, making sandwiches and delivering food to those less fortunate. The couple have proved they can successfully play their part in Team Royal, yet they have time and time again chosen not to, hence causing the public and the palace to turnoff.

Happier times: The royal couple's seen at The Royal Foundation Forum in 2018 before Harry and Meghan's wedding - © Getty Images

The third reason, and one which Finding Freedom has become a defining element of, is the inconsistency of Harry and Meghan’s complaints. It is believed that Prince William will have a rough ride in the book, with Harry suspected to have well and truly thrown him under the royal carriage. Catherine similarly is expected to sustain some bumps and bruises along the way. Already we have heard friends of Meghan tell the authors of the book that the couple felt the future Prince and Princess of Wales were “unwelcoming from the start” and that Meghan was ‘disappointed’ Kate never reached out to her or visited the couple at their home, Frogmore Cottage.

Yet the couple took a very different tone just over two-years earlier as they sat down for their engagement interview with the BBC.

When asked about whether the couple had met each other’s families, Meghan gushed: “His family have been so welcoming. I’ve just had a really nice time getting to know them, and progressively helping me feel a part of not just the institution, but also part of the family, which has been really special.”

Harry spoke later in the interview, which has been viewed over eleven million times on YouTube, about his brother and sister-in-law’s support, saying: “William was longing to meet her and so was Catherine. Them being our neighbours, we’ve managed to get that in quite a few times now, and Catherine has been absolutely amazing, as has William as well – fantastic support.”

Meghan was also in agreement over the Duchess of Cambridge: “Yes, she’s been wonderful,” she said.

Harry, months later, would also describe the Royals as “the family Meghan never had.”

The BBC engagement interview between the newly engaged couple - © BBC

If what the biography claims is the truth, then it is understandable that you could be left questioning whether Harry and Meghan were lying in their engagement interview. If not, then are the authors of the book? Or perhaps Meghan’s friends? Either way, the couple’s complaints are far from watertight when placed under scrutiny.

Another complaint in the book, which seems far removed from the reality most of the public witnessed, was this idea that the UK and the Monarchy were also unwelcoming to Meghan. The Queen broke tradition and protocol to invite Meghan to Sandringham for Christmas after her and Harry’s engagement, becoming the first “commoner” to be afforded the privilege. She was bestowed patronages once belonging to the Queen – demonstrating Her Majesty’s sense of trust in the newly crowned Duchess. Alongside her husband she took centre stage on two royal tours, winning praise along the way. An entire “cottage” at Frogmore was renovated by the Taxpayer after refusing a grand apartment at Kensington Palace. And who can forget a spectacular wedding at Windsor Castle that received some of the most positive press coverage in royal history. If this is what Harry and Meghan deem unwelcoming, then god knows what the alternative looks like.

The Queen attending the RAF 100 Celebration Flypast at Buckingham Palace - © Getty Images

Reading Finding Freedom, none of these counter arguments are made – and considering the book is marketed as a ‘fair account’, it is interesting how much has been omitted from the inside pages. Take Meghan bemoaning Catherine snubbing her on a shopping trip to Kensington High Street. The books claims: “There were awkward moments, such as the day the women happened to cross paths at Kensington Palace (in early 2017, when Harry and Meghan were still only dating), and although both were heading out to go shopping — in the same street — Kate went in her own Range Rover.”

However according to a friend close to Catherine, which was once again reported in the media long before the release of Finding Freedom, the Duchess of Cambridge felt that due to the heightened interest in both women at the time, the paparazzi would have a field day in trying to photograph them together. “Catherine felt it would draw too much attention,” says the friend, “and she simply wanted to shop in peace without being noticed. It was far from a snub.”

Finding Freedom claims that the Sussexes felt side-lined by the other royal offices, feeling that the ‘vipers’ – Meghan’s name for the royal courtiers – were actively out to see the couple fail. Racism and sexism have been detailed as reasons behind Meghan’s treatment, and jealousy from other senior royals too. It is stated that the couple would consistently have to hold back on any announcements of engagements or causes if they clashed with the offices of The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge. Harry felt this was unfair.

‘While they both respected the hierarchy of the institution, it was difficult when they wanted to focus on a project and were told that a more senior ranking family member, be it Prince William or Prince Charles, had an initiative or tour being announced at the same time — so they would just have to wait.’ The book claims.

In a biography stuffed with negative accusations against the inner workings of the Monarchy, what becomes apparent is, whilst they might respect hierarchy, Harry and Meghan’s lack of understanding of how or why these “frustrating” protocols are in place could be key to their problems. Throughout the extracts of the book, Harry especially seems lacking in this process, one which isn’t that difficult to understand.

The Monarch is the star; the alpha and omega. Then comes the Heir, and from here we descend down the line of succession, and the lower down the pecking order, the less important you are, in terms of royalty. For royal courtiers, Harry will always be deemed less important than his father and brother – two future Kings. It may seem harsh, unfair even, but it is the structure which has seen The Royal Family become the country’s longest surviving institution. And if it isn’t broke, why fix it?

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex in South Africa - © Getty Images

And here lies the problem, ironically one which Harry’s own mother Diana, Princess of Wales pursued – change the Monarchy, not just on the surface, but from the roots up. Sadly, for those who attempt, with an institution as old as royalty, change is not a quick process. It cannot be achieved in two years, or fifteen in Diana’s case. It takes time, a subtle approach, and depending on your positioning in the line of succession, the lower you are, the harder it is to achieve.

The reality for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, is simply where they are positioned. Finding Freedom unintentionally paints the sixth-in-line to the British Throne as a man who believes his importance stems beyond his father and brother – two future Kings – and his grandmother, the Queen. Due to the excuse of popularity, the couple appear to have navigated their brief royal life with the mantra: what the Sussexes want the Sussexes get – no questions asked, no criticisms allowed.

This attitude has seemingly alienated them from their former staff, their family and the public. Yet, if history has taught us one thing about the world of royalty: popularity isn’t an imperative factor to the survival of the Monarchy. It plays its part, but it never has been, nor never will the dagger which pierces its heart. Dramas like Harry and Meghan’s come and go, the role of Queens and Kings don’t.

Right now, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will not likely be analysing the fallout battering at their LA mansion gates. After all, no matter how much they claim to have played no part in Finding Freedom, they have actively been waiting with bated breath to tell their side of the story. But have the public been as enthusiastic to hear it?

The question for Finding Freedom will be, will it change opinion? Sadly, for Harry and Meghan, it looks unlikely. Those who like the couple, will continue to defend them. Those who don’t will continue to criticise – and everyone else in between frankly have more important things to worry about.

Harry and Meghan's final engagement as working Royals at the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey - © Getty Images

The book is just another ill-judged decision by the Sussexes that will do far more damage to themselves rather that the Monarchy, and that damage will result in it all ending in tears for the couple. We are already seeing it happen. A Studio Executive for one of Hollywood’s biggest film companies recently claimed that there is no market for the Sussexes as they are “far too controversial to work with.”

Sadly, for Harry and Meghan we can only hope that a time will come when they do ask themselves the question of whether all this was worth it? If they don’t and continue on this destructive path blaming everyone else for the mistakes they’ve made, then they will forever be embarking on the endless pursuit of finding freedom – one which will eternally allude them.

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