“I gave up my entire life for this family. I was willing to do whatever it takes. But here we are. It’s very sad.”
That’s reportedly what Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, told one of several close friends who would become a source for the highly anticipated tell-all Finding Freedom: Harry, Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, due out August 11. Serialized in three excerpts by the Times of London over the weekend, the book gives further context to the events leading up to the Sussexes’ departure from their “senior royal” status.
“It was open season on Meghan, with many looking for anything and everything to criticize,” the authors explained, referencing the nickname “Duchess Different” that plagued Meghan from the time of her entry into the royal family—“Duchess Difficult” being another widely-reported moniker
As reprinted in Harper’s Bazaar:
“‘Duchess Different,’ a close friend of Meghan’s said. ‘That’s what people have a problem with. She’s the easiest person in the world to work with. Certain people just don’t like the fact she stands out.’”
As an American television actress and divorcée—and a biracial one, at that—Markle couldn’t help but stand out—and she was certainly different from any of the women previously allowed to enter the royal family—with perhaps the loaded exception of fellow American Wallis Simpson, whose presence compelled Edward VIII (later Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor) to abdicate the throne, ironically setting into motion the succession that would eventually seat Queen Elizabeth on the throne.
“This is a script that wrote itself as soon as you knew that an American actress was coming into the royal family,” a source told authors and longtime royal reporters Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand. “Meghan felt as though some of the commentary and tabloid stories were more than a culture clash; they were sexist and prejudiced...If a man got up before dawn to work, he was applauded for his work ethic. If a woman did it, she was deemed difficult or ‘a bitch.’ The double standard was exacerbated when it came to successful women of color, often labeled demanding or aggressive.”
Ahh yes, the all-too-familiar “aggressive”—coupled with concerns about the biracial actress’ suitability as a potential partner for the British prince—of particular note is that several staffers supposedly referred to Meghan as “Harry’s showgirl.” For context, Finding Freedom points out (h/t Bazaar):
Racism takes a different form in the U.K. from in America, but there is no mistaking its existence and how ingrained it is. A major theme of racism in the U.K. centers on the question of who is authentically ‘British.’...It can come through in subtle acts of bias; micro-aggressions such as the palace staffer who told the biracial co-author of these words, ‘I never expected you to speak the way you do,’ or the newspaper headline ‘Memo to Meghan: we Brits prefer true royalty to fashion royalty.’ While the columnist was criticizing Meghan for her [magazine] editorials, there was another way to read it, which is that to be British meant to be born and bred in the U.K.—and be white.
The marginalization was reportedly exacerbated by the royal family’s refusal to publicly defend Meghan, refute rumors or promote initiatives she and Harry were passionate about; protocols that differed for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, future King of England William and wife Kate Middleton. The book seems to reinforce the idea that this was in part an effort to suppress attention upon Harry and Meghan, whose public interest far outpaced that of the Cambridges.
“Traditionally, the palace has had no comment when it comes to rumors, but the Sussexes felt it wasn’t afraid to bend the rules if it was to correct a story about higher-ranking family members,” Finding Freedom explained, adding: “Harry and Meghan were frustrated by this approach.”
Also frustrating was the friendship that never materialized between Meghan and Kate—though the book apparently debunks the long-rumored feud between the two. Instead, the relationship between the two women might best be described as indifferent.
“Meghan would agree with the assessment that the duchesses were not the best of friends,” the book surmised (h/t Elle). “Their relationship hadn’t progressed much since she was Harry’s girlfriend.”
Finding Freedom also reports that Meghan had initially hoped Kate would help acclimate her to “everything an outsider to the Firm [the working side of the royal family] needed to know,” a kinship that never materialized, as Kate reportedly didn’t find much in common with Meghan “other than the fact that they lived at Kensington Palace.”
“Meghan was disappointed that she and Kate hadn’t bonded over the position they shared, but she wasn’t losing sleep over it,” the writers add.
Nevertheless, as Glamour magazine relayed, there was little trust or comfort to be found within royal life, as “Sources said Prince Harry believed that some courtiers ‘simply didn’t like Meghan and would stop at nothing to make her life difficult.’” In fact, while the term “Megxit” quickly caught fire upon announcements early this year that the duo would be exiting royal life, “Fundamentally, Harry wanted out,” the book reports (h/t Elle). “Deep down, he was always struggling within that world. She’s opened the door for him on that.”
The Queen and royal family were apparently “devastated” by Harry’s decision to divest from “The Firm,” but Finding Freedom posits it was the last resort in “making things right for his own little family,” the Times reported. “This is tearing him apart. He loves the Queen, but his wife feels aggrieved, and he adores his son. Harry’s whole world is Archie.”
The couple’s last public appearance as senior royals was at the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in March—where they were reportedly given a preemptive taste of life as commoners, largely snubbed by the family and removed from the procession they’d taken part in during previous ceremonies. As previously reported, Meghan left immediately after to rejoin son Archie in Canada, where the family was temporarily residing.
“Meg just wanted to get home,” a source told the authors. “At that point, she couldn’t imagine wanting to set a foot back into anything royal again.”
In the months since, life has changed dramatically for the small family, who was last reported to be Perry’s Beverly Hills mansion, where it was also recently reported that Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland has moved in to help care for baby Archie (h/t Vanity Fair). And while Meghan remains entangled in a lawsuit with several British tabloids, according to Town & Country magazine, she and Harry filed a new suit last week against unnamed defendants in the Superior Court of California, alleging “relentless and quite frankly shocking efforts of the tabloid media to profit from serial intrusions on the privacy of a 14-month-old child in his own home,” citing the use of drones and helicopters to capture pictures of their son.
But while the Sussexes understandably want to control their own narrative—and at first glance, Finding Freedom seems to skew heavily in favor of the royal couple—a recent statement released on their behalf states that the couple did not participate in the writing of the tell-all. This directly refutes earlier reports that both Harry and Meghan had been interviewed for the project.
Of course, Finding Freedom promises more details on the Sussexes, including the evolution of what at first seemed a fairytale romance and the impasse between Meghan and her father that reached a saddening climax as the couple’s 2018 wedding approached. Whether Harry and Meghan will comment publicly on the book’s revelations—if only to further set the record straight—remains to be seen.
“I think what’s very clear is that Meghan and Harry have wanted to get their side of the story across,” royal expert Katie Nicholl told Entertainment Tonight on Monday, claiming that not even Oprah has been able to get her hands on the entire manuscript. “This is clearly a couple who feel quite aggrieved by the fact that they’ve never been able to answer their critics. They have never been able to address incorrect reporting.”
Despite the couple’s denials of direct involvement, Nicholl suggested Finding Forever is an attempt to correct the record; “[to] give Meghan and Harry the chance, if not through their own voices, then through the voices of friends, confidants and people that they trust, to get their side of the story out there,” she added. “They feel—Meghan, particularly—that she has been muted for most of her royal life, as short as it was.”