It’s been just over seven months since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made the shock announcement that they’d be stepping back as senior members of the British royal family, news that was swiftly followed by speculation, reproaches, a move to California with year-old son Archie, and reports of a frosty fallout with their more staid Cambridge counterparts, Prince William and Kate Middleton.
As royal correspondents, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand have closely witnessed it all, and hope their new book, Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, will help “put some of those tabloid tales and gossip to rest” and “rehumanize” a couple they feel have been misrepresented and turned into “caricatures.”
Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment over video call, Scobie — who cut his teeth as a Windsors expert while covering the 2010 engagement of that other royal power couple, William and Kate — explains that he and co-author Durand received “no cooperation” from Harry and Meghan themselves. Still, their book is rife with intimate insider details sourced from close friends of the duke and duchess, as well as royal aides, colleagues from their charity work and others within their circle, and is thus sympathetic to the pair Scobie calls “a very laid-back, easygoing and compassionate couple who are very much engaged in the work that they do.”
His own experiences with the Sussexes are at odds with the “tabloid personas” and “vicious labels” they’ve been subjected to, he says, pointing to Meghan being mocked as “Duchess Difficult.”
“For all the things that made her different and should have been celebrated, they’re often weaponized against her,” the Harper’s Bazaar journalist says. “We saw certain sections of the tabloids leaning on some pretty unpleasant, sexist and racist stereotypes that we often see attached to powerful women or successful women of color. She was ‘too loud,’ she was ‘too demanding,’ ‘too difficult,’ ‘too ambitious’ — things that actually made her an incredible asset to the royal family.
“Many of her differences made her an outcast in a way,” he adds, noting that the biracial duchess was treated with “a little bit of xenophobia.” Her American habits also rankled some, he says, recalling a palace aide “appalled” by her tendency to offer hugs.
Ultimately, Scobie says, Harry and Meghan “grew increasingly frustrated with the narrative that was being built around them and how the palace did little to stop it.” And while Meghan is often accused of having her husband “under the thumb, or under some kind of spell” in order to mastermind his rift with the royals, Scobie insists that Harry is “very much in the driver’s seat” behind the decision to break free; being in an equal partnership with Meghan “emboldened” him to take action, but the prince is no puppet.
Having formally ended their royal duties in March and moved to California with son Archie, the couple is now able to speak more freely about issues like systemic racism, says Scobie, who notes that, by contrast, the royal family has yet to address the Black Lives Matter movement. Moving forward, he expects them to follow a path similar to that of the Obamas post-White House: speaking out on social issues, overseeing philanthropic projects through their Archewell Foundation, taking on “lucrative” public speaking engagements and, in Harry’s case, working on documentaries with Oprah Winfrey and Netflix, respectively.
It’s “lazy” to assume that Meghan will return to acting, Scobie adds, but he does see her using her platform to become more engaged in the upcoming presidential election, bound to be a “very liberating experience” given the constraints she felt during her time with the famously apolitical royal family.
One thing Scobie doesn’t predict for the couple: a return to the royal lives they once knew.
“I can’t imagine them ever stepping back into their roles as working members of the royal family,” he tells Yahoo. “They’re too far forward at the moment. For a couple that don’t really live to regret, I can’t see them ever making that decision.”
Video produced by Kat Vasquez.
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