Royal watchers have been learning the contents of Finding Freedom—a new biography about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, from royal reporters Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand—in dribs and drabs for weeks, through a series of published excerpts and articles about the book. But today, at long last, fans of the Sussexes can read it in full.
The newly-published book fleshes out dozens of incidents that devoted royal watchers are already familiar with, and introduces a handful of new details about the couple's love story—from their early courtship to their decision to step back from their roles as working royals. (Per a spokesperson for the couple, "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were not interviewed and did not contribute to 'Finding Freedom.' This book is based on the authors’ own experiences as members of the royal press corps and their own independent reporting.")
Here, the most insightful anecdotes from Finding Freedom.
Harry and Meghan were reportedly secretly engaged for months.
The royal duo were engaged long before the public learned of the couple's plans to tie the knot, Finding Freedom claims. Previously, the prevailing narrative—confirmed by the Duke and Duchess themselves in a 2017 interview with the BBC—was that Harry popped the question in November of the that year. However, Scobie and Durand report that by the time Harry and Meghan made their public debut as a couple at the September 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, they'd already decided to get married.
In recent decades, royal births have become associated with the Lindo Wing at St. Mary's Hospital Paddington, a high-end maternity ward in London. This is largely thanks to Princess Anne, Princess Diana, and Kate Middleton, who've all chosen to deliver there. It's even become something of an event for royal parents to exit with their newborn in front of a crowd of photographers—the royal baby's very first photo opp.
Meghan, however, chose to have Archie at London's Portland Hospital—a location that wasn't disclosed until the child's birth certificate was released. And Finding Freedom has it that a St. Mary's birth was never in the cards for her. "Meghan never considered giving birth at the Lindo Wing, where Kate delivered all three of her children, DIana had William and Harry, and Princess Anne had Peter and Zara," the books claims. The Duchess reportedly wanted to have Archie somewhere "more discreet."
Prince Harry had a secret Instagram account.
The Duke may not have a public social media presence, but he does keep tabs on what's happening online. According to Scobie and Durand, Harry used the Instagram handle @SpikeyMau5—inspired both his love of Deadmau5 and his sometime-nickname Spike—to use the app anonymously. (Since the excerpt from Finding Freedom mentioning this account was published, @SpikeyMau5's already minuscule number of followers has diminished, and the bio now reads "Not Prince Harry.")
Per Scobie and Durand, Meghan started following @SpikeyMau5 after their first solo date. She posted a photo of a heart candy that read "Kiss Me," with the caption "Lovehearts in #London." The excerpt reads, "Whether it had meaning to anyone else, Harry got the message."
Rumor has it that one of the Yorks' staffers was the first to tip off the press about Harry and Meghan's relationship.
Scobie and Durand write that Harry is close with Princess Eugenie, and that she'd been encouraging about his new romance with Meghan, saying the future Duchess was "just the tonic" for her cousin.
But Finding Freedom notes that Harry and Meghan received a call from Kensington Palace during a Halloween party in Toronto alerting them that the media had gotten wind of their relationship. It was rumored that an employee of Eugenie and her dad, Prince Andrew, had given the tip.
The real story about Meghan's choice of wedding tiara is far less dramatic than was previously reported.
Queen Elizabeth usually lends royal brides tiaras for their wedding days—such was the case for Kate Middleton, Princess Beatrice, and Princess Eugenie in recent years—and Meghan was no exception. She chose Queen Mary's Bandeau Tiara, which looked stunning paired with her Givenchy gown.
However, multiple British tabloids reported that there had been a behind-the-scenes tussle over the Duchess's tiara, in which the Queen shot down Meghan's first choice of sparkler. In Finding Freedom, Scobie and Durand report that story as false—but there was briefly a bit of headpiece-related conflict. Harry thought that the Queen's longtime dressmaker, Angela Kelly, was slow-walking Meghan's hair trial with the tiara; ultimately, the trial took place without delay.
The Queen was "devastated" by Harry and Meghan's decision to step back, but let them know they're welcome back anytime.
In one of the sections from Finding Freedom published in the Times, Scobie and Durand take a deep dive into the events leading up to the Sussexes' decision to step back from their royal roles—and into how the royals hashed out a plan for Harry and Meghan's new lives, after being surprised by the "new working model" the couple published on their short-lived website, sussexroyal.com, which had been created without consulting any other Windsors.
"The element of surprise, the blindsiding of the Queen, for the other principals who are all very mindful of this, rightfully, it was deeply upsetting," a senior member of the royal household told the authors. The Queen and Prince Philip were both reportedly "devastated."
Still, after finally reaching an agreement that allowed Harry and Meghan to step back (though not quite the one the Sussexes had hoped for), the Queen invited Harry to Windsor for lunch. During their meeting, "the Queen made it clear to Harry that she would always support him in whatever he decided to do," the excerpt reads. "Though a 12-month trial period had already been promised to Harry earlier in the year, their conversation was also a reminder that should he and Meghan ever want to return to their roles, they were always welcome."
A source told the authors, "It’s been made very clear they can come back whenever they want, when they’re ready."
The Duke and Duchess said "I love you" after just three months of dating.
The Sussexes apparently had something of a whirlwind romance. They had three dates in a matter of days, and hit it off immediately. "Almost immediately they were almost obsessed with each other," a friend told Scobie and Durand. "It was as if Harry was in a trance."
Six weeks later, they went on a trip to Botswana, and fell even harder for one another. Within three months, they were using the "L" word. "Three months into their relationship, a Meghan friend said, they had already begun swapping the words 'I love you,'" the excerpt reads. "It was Harry who said it first, but Meghan immediately replied, 'I love you, too.' From there it didn’t take long for them to begin talking in non-oblique terms about their future."
Harry used to visit his niece and nephew regularly, but that came to a "virtual halt" by summer 2017.
Finding Freedom traces the rift between Harry and William to a conversation they had about Meghan—a turning point that's been reported about before. As Scobie and Durand have it, Harry took offense when William told him, "Don’t feel you need to rush this. Take as much time as you need to get to know this girl."
From there, the brothers' relationship reportedly soured. "In the months after William talked to Harry about the relationship, the two hardly spoke," reads the excerpt. "The brothers went from always making time for each other to spending barely any time together. Harry had always loved popping across the grounds of the palace to see George and Charlotte, bringing them gifts that included an electric SUV for his nephew and a tricycle for his niece. But those visits had come to a virtual halt by the summer of 2017. In fact, Harry had spent less time with Prince Louis than the others because of the growing tension between him and his brother after Louis’s birth on April 23, 2018. The distance came from both directions. Harry spent less time going over to see the children, but the invitations from William and Kate were the first to dry up."
Meghan tried to communicate with her father until the night before the wedding.
Royal watchers will remember the drama surrounding Meghan's dad, Thomas Markle, in the lead-up to the wedding. But it's not Thomas the Sussexes blame, per Finding Freedom; it's the media.
"Meghan placed some of the blame on herself. Having spent the past year and a half in the glaring spotlight, she understood what the pressure from the media was like," read the excerpt. "'He’s vulnerable,' she told a friend. 'He’s been baited. A lot of the tabloid journalists have been coaxing him and paying him. I don’t know if he really even had a chance.' Harry also blamed the media for the whole situation. 'The pressure he was put under for six months before he finally cracked and started to participate,' a senior courtier said of Meghan’s father, 'that’s what Harry’s angry about.'"
Scobie and Durand write that Meghan was trying to reach out and communicate with her father right up to the night before her royal wedding: "The night before the wedding, she sent her father one last text. He did not reply. Sitting in a bath later that night, FaceTiming with a friend, the bride-to-be said she had left her dad a final message, adding: 'I can’t sit up all night just pressing send.'"
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