Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand's new book, available now, is teeming with insider perspective on just what Meghan Markle was up against when she married into Britain's royal family.
Put the kettle on, pour a cuppa and get ready to settle in for the telling of an epic fractured fairy tale.
Whether you just want tea or something stronger is up to you, perhaps depending on where you weigh in on the "just how unfair has the world been to Meghan Markle" scale.
Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, the long-awaited story of what really happened when Harry met Meghan, is finally out—and the new book by longtime royals reporters Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand leaves few stones unturned.
Said to be based on interviews conducted over two years with more than 100 people, including Buckingham Palace aides and close friends of the couple (though not the Sussexes themselves), and encompassing up-close observations and insider knowledge of what makes the royals tick, the book was written "to shed light on a side of the story that we haven't heard much of," Scobie explained on his podcast, The HeirPod.
He has emphasized that the book is "unofficial" and "unauthorized," and both the authors and a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan have denied that the couple participated in the project in any way.
"This book is based on the authors' own experiences as members of the royal press corps and their own independent reporting," the rep has said.
While one of the stated purposes of Finding Freedom is to clear up a lot of the misinformation that's been circulating about the couple basically since the press first got wind of Harry's new girlfriend, Scobie also says that he hopes the book also serviced to humanize Meghan, because there have been so many stories in which "she has really been treated anything but."
Even some of the headlines and commentary surrounding the advance excerpts from the book have been misleading, he added, so the veteran royals correspondent is hoping that people will read and judge the truth for themselves—and enjoy the "fun and beautiful moments" amid all the drama.
Several tempting morsels from the purported tell-all were indeed handed out over the past few weeks, from the revelation that palace aides were none too happy about Meghan sporting a necklace with "H" and "M" charms early on in their courtship, and not because she's a fan of a certain fast-fashion chain, to the assertion that Harry was "pissed off" when Prince William implored him not to rush into getting serious with Meghan.
But of course everyone was waiting for the full-on feast and, yes, we've been gorging.
Here is the best dish that Finding Freedom has to offer:
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If only international journalists had known to check the Seaton Village community Facebook page! According to the book, Harry's visits to Meghan in Toronto were an "open secret" among her neighbors, with one telling the authors, "When a black SUV was parked with guys inside wearing headsets and eating burritos, we'd say, 'Hey, Harry's in town!'"
Harry met Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, for the first time in Los Angeles at a home in West Hollywood with a pool and killer views of the city that belongs to his longtime friend Arthur Landon, one of the richest young men in Britain. The couple seemingly never left the house during the week they stayed there, using delivery apps to get food from Meghan's local faves, like Sushi Park.
(Side note: Meghan's love for sushi can't be overstated. They would have it delivered from Pen Yen when they were holed up in a country cottage in Oxfordshire while they were dating, too.)
On Oct. 29, 2016, Harry and Meghan were at a Halloween costume party in Toronto with his cousin and close friend Princess Eugenie and her then-boyfriend Jack Brooksbank (in town for work as a brand ambassador for Casamigos tequila) when the prince got a call from Kensington Palace informing him that the Sunday Express was going to break the news of his relationship. More frustrating yet, rumor had it that the tabloid had been tipped off by a member of Eugenie's father Prince Andrew's staff.
An aide advised Harry to leave town right away, but he refused. They went back to Meghan's house, the actress already having ignored a text from a local photographer asking if the scoop was true. The next day, they packed up and went to stay with Meghan's friend Jessica Mulroney and her husband, Ben, in Upper Canada.
They stayed with the Mulroneys for three days, then Harry had to return to London. By then, Meghan was front-page news.
When Meghan went to stay with Harry at Nottingham Cottage, his bachelor pad on the grounds of Kensington Palace, she insisted that the staff call her by her first name, as opposed to "Ms. Markle." (Harry familiarly called her "Meg," and she would call him "H," a habit started when she only referred to him to other people by his first initial and instructed other people, like her father, to do the same.)
Understandably, Meghan was particularly nauseated when The Sun ran the headline "Harry's Girl on Pornhub" after discovering that someone had uploaded one of her (fairly tame) love scenes from Suits to the website. "Meghan felt sick to her stomach when she saw that," a friend told the authors. "She wanted to cry. She wanted to shout…She was upset and angry."
When another tabloid published photos of her mother at a laundromat in L.A., Meghan remained outwardly stoic but was in tears behind the scenes, the book reports.
She was devastated once again when U.S. site Radar Online published topless photos claimed to be taken of Meghan during the festivities when she married her first husband in 2013. Meghan insisted that she was not the person in the photos and a lawyer got Radar to issue an apology, but, the authors wrote, that "did little to ease the pain."
The momentous statement released by Kensington Palace on Nov. 8, 2016, calling out the media for not just invading his girlfriend's privacy but also trolling in misogyny and racism, was drafted largely by Harry himself—and while he had his family's support, he did not wait for dad Prince Charles to return from a trip to the Middle East. (Not just for solidarity purposes, but also so as not to detract from coverage of Charles' work abroad. Oh, well.)
And while William released his own statement in support of his brother a few weeks later, there was concern behind the scenes that Harry's words had been "too strong." Meghan, meanwhile, told friends she felt "'emotionally drained.'"
A lot of planning, including nonstop discussion behind the scenes among palace aides, went into the decision that Harry and Meghan would officially appear in public for the first time together in Toronto at the Invictus Games in July 2017.
Meghan quickly grew tired of the aides' "'flip-flopping'" on the matter, friends said, with one insider recalling, "There was an element of 'I'm just going to be quiet and see what everyone else thinks.'"
Meanwhile, there was a full-on team advising Meghan and her friends on how to deal with the scrutiny. "It was a little bizarre," one said. "But it made sense. This wasn't about the royal family; it was simply about her safety. That's how it was laid out. It was good to know there was someone to talk to if we had been pestered by tabloid journalists or paps."
Meghan met William on one of her earlier trips to London, but she didn't meet Kate until after she and Harry returned from their New Year's holiday in Norway at the beginning of 2017. Even then, it was only a brief stop to see the Duchess of Cambridge at their Kensington Palace abode on Jan. 10.
Kate was said to be "indifferent" about meeting Meghan, the book says, but that was only because the duchess is "an extremely guarded person," always careful about letting new people into her inner circle, a friend said. And before Meghan, who brought Kate a leather journal as a gift, left, Kate told her that she could contact her any time, that she knew what she was going through.
Meghan was invited to the whole event, barely, but famously only attended the reception when Kate's sister, Pippa Middleton, married James Matthews on May 20, 2017, due to the rightfully massive concern that her presence would overshadow the bride—especially after The Sun's front-page feature comparing the two ladies' rear ends.
At the party, Meghan and Harry weren't seated together (nor were any couples, "per Pippa's request," the book reveals), but they were allowed to dance. (Interestingly, in hindsight, Harry sat with his friend Tom Bradsby, the ITV journalist who in October 2019 conducted the couple's raw, candid interview in Africa that preceded their withdrawal as senior royals.)
It wasn't just William cautioning Harry not to rush into anything with Meghan that rubbed the smitten redhead the wrong way (his friend Skippy advised him to just live with Meghan for awhile first, and they didn't speak for months!). But Harry was especially upset by his big brother seemingly not trusting his judgment.
But, a friend who's in touch with both brothers told the authors, William and Harry had spent their lives trying to suss out people who were trying to take advantage of them, and since William didn't know Meghan all that well, "he just wanted to make sure that Harry wasn't blindsided by lust."
When William told him, "'Take as much time as you need to get to know this girl,'" Harry was especially mad at the "this girl" part, considering it a sign of his sibling's snobbery.
"Harry was pissed off," a friend said. "Pissed off that his brother would ask such a thing. Some felt it was an overreaction. But then, this totally sums them up as people—William the calm and rational one, and Harry, who can't help but take things far too personally."
Harry proposed shortly after they got back from their trip to Botswana in August 2017, but their engagement wasn't announced until November. In the interim, Meghan alerted a few trusted friends via text, sending them photos of the ring on her finger.
What would the coverage of Meghan and Harry's first months of marriage been like if Thomas Markle had simply shown up to his little girl's wedding? The retired TV lighting director, who's been divorced from Meghan's mom since she was a little girl, was supposedly planning on being there to walk the bride down the aisle, but ended up not going. Reporters were told he had suffered a heart attack, triggering a debate in the press over whether Meghan (or at least someone from the royal family) should have visited him immediately, while some wondered about whether he was really physically unable to attend the wedding.
"As much as she was hurt and humiliated, she wanted him to be there and was willing to move on," a close friend of Meghan (who was already smarting from her dad lying to her about posing for staged paparazzi photos) told the authors. "Plus, she was worried about him; she honestly wasn't sure if he was actually okay. His behavior was bizarre."
She was reportedly texting her dad up until the night before the wedding, hoping to get in touch, but he wouldn't reply except to say he didn't need the security team Meghan and Harry offered to send his way, and that he would stay at a motel while he recovered.
"There were no easy solutions," a palace aide recalled, "and they handled it about best they could even though to the outside world it looked like a total mess."
James Corden, who served as an emcee at Meghan and Harry's reception after the speeches, came out dressed as King Henry VIII, the 16th-century monarch who notoriously had two of his six wives beheaded.
"Your Royal Highnesses, ladies and gentlemen, I had no idea what to wear to a royal wedding," the Late Late Show host told the guests, "so I looked it up in the royal etiquette manual and found this outfit. I hope I've come in the right gear."
After he missed her wedding, Meghan's dad gave a slew of interviews to the British press, claiming he'd been cut off and just might have to show up at Harry and Meghan's doorstep one day. As we know, because she's suing the Mail on Sunday for printing parts of it, she wrote a four-page letter to Thomas pleading with him to stop.
When he wrote her back and suggested that the best way to repair their relationship would be with a photo op, Meghan told friends (as relayed to the authors), "'I'm devastated. My father's clearly been fully corrupted.'"
A close pal explained, "It's so painful for her because she was so dutiful. Giving him money. Trying to give him whatever help he needed. She will always feel devastated by what he's done. Always, but at the same time, she has a lot of sympathy for him…He couldn't escape [the scrutiny]. So now, it's just like he's so far gone."
Though Meghan would have preferred a little more personal attention from her sister-in-law, especially when the press was at its most pernicious, Meghan and Kate were not "at war" and there was never a pre-wedding conflict during the bridesmaid fittings that left anyone in tears (least of all Kate), according to this book.
Harry and Meghan did also wish that palace aides would have tried harder to clamp down on outlets that were reporting on Meghan's alleged "temper tantrums" with the staff and other unflattering portrayals that insiders insist were unfair accounts of what was occurring behind closed doors.
Rather, the real issues were always between Harry and William, deep-rooted sibling grievances that happened to rear their heads while they were naturally growing apart, with families of their own.
Yes, according to a source, Princess Eugenie did think that it would have been nice if Meghan and Harry had waited until after her wedding to start telling people that Meghan was pregnant.
Meghan did consider a home birth but did not seriously consider having her first child in the Lindo Wing at St. Mary's Hospital, where Kate had all three of her children. She wanted something more private and in turn she and Harry didn't tell anyone—not their closest friends, not their aides—that they were headed to London's Portland Hospital for the birth of Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor on May 6, 2019.
Okay, aside from Meghan's doctors, one person knew: Her mother.
"Meghan described the moment she first held Archie as 'ecstasy…total bliss and contentment,'" a friend said. Knowing they were having a boy, they had settled on a name about a week before Archie was born.
As far as alerting Archie's maternal grandfather, Meghan had Doria text her ex-husband about his grandchild's birth because she didn't want him finding out about it on the news. But she didn't want to know if, or what, he replied.
Happily, the Sussexes' decision to break off their own household, which they achieved in the summer of 2019, helped start to mend Harry and William's personal relationship.
A palace source told the authors that William said in late March of that year (with the plan in the works), "'You know what? Me and my brother, for the first time in two months, have had a really lovely conversation together.'"
After Doria, who helped out during those first weeks of parenthood, returned to Los Angeles, Harry and Meghan hired a night nurse—and then let her go in the middle of night two for, per the book, "unprofessional and irresponsible" behavior.
The next nurse was fine but, unable to sleep much anyway because they were still shaken by their first experience, the couple decided to just pull nighttime duty themselves. They hired a daytime nanny for weekdays, bringing their household staff to three, including their housekeeper and one assistant (neither of whom were live-in employees).
But at the heart of Finding Freedom, Scobie says, is "a beautiful love story, and a story of two people that really went against all odds to create a life that worked for them and allowed them to thrive in a space that they weren't thriving in before."
As Meghan herself said, in the ITV interview from October that in hindsight was a definite precursor to her and Harry's groundbreaking decision to step down as working royals: "It's not enough to just survive something, right? Like, that's not the point of life. You've got to thrive, you've got to feel happy."
—With reporting by Beth Sobol
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