Meghan Markle’s children's book is definitely a good thing - and follows a fine royal tradition

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Meghan Duchess of Sussex is releasing a children's book - Getty
Meghan Duchess of Sussex is releasing a children's book - Getty

Meghan Markle may have given up on fairy tales but that hasn’t put her off children’s stories. The Queen’s granddaughter-in-law has penned her own tale for tots, joining a bumper bookshelf of other royal writers, from Sweden’s Princess Madeleine and Queen Rania of Jordan to our very own Queen Victoria. (Yes, really: the former Empress of India wrote a story, aged 10, for her mother, and you can find it in Waterstone’s today for £14.95.)

The Bench, by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, focuses on father-son relationships, and features nods to Harry, two-year-old son Archie and newborn Lilibet. Ever one to widen the gene pool, the fledgling author features a “diverse group of father and sons” in her story, which is beautifully illustrated by Christian Robinson, who has worked for Pixar.

The book hits shops - and the internet - today, much to the disgust of the usual mob who think she’s cashing in on her name and brand for the sake of, well, quite a few bob given the title ricocheted to the top of the pre-order bestseller lists within hours of being announced.

Queen Victoria is among the long list of royals who have penned books - Hulton Deutsch/Corbis
Queen Victoria is among the long list of royals who have penned books - Hulton Deutsch/Corbis

But what if - hear me out - some of the people excited about buying her book haven’t bought any other children’s books all year? What if the very fact she's the Duchess of Sussex, an admittedly handy selling point she makes on the cover, is the only reason they’re buying this book? Isn’t that A Good Thing?

In the words of one nine-year-old, who saw the announcement on CBBC’s Newsround, which he watches every day at school: “I thought it would be interesting to read a book by someone who is sort of in the Royal Family.” He’s far from alone, given the instant buzz.

The Bench, by Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex - Random House
The Bench, by Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex - Random House

Sure, I could argue she’s shrinking the market, making it harder for first-time children’s authors to get a break, but she’s hardly the first celebrity to cash in with a sub-par Julia Donaldson. There are already more actor-turned-authors out there than I can squeeze into the children’s shelves at the Oxfam where I moonlight as a bookseller.

Lupita Nyong’o, Whoopi Goldberg, Tori Spelling, Will Smith, Natalie Portman and Julie Andrews have all turned scribe in their time, and I don’t remember any of them killing off kids’ publishing. And let’s not forget the Duchess of York, who has written an entire series of kids’ books.

Lupita Nyong'o, too, has penned a children's book - Axelle/Bauer-Griffin
Lupita Nyong'o, too, has penned a children's book - Axelle/Bauer-Griffin

It’s old news that a handful of names dominate what sells. Last year was a bumper 12 months for books - the amount we spent on fiction jumped by 16 per cent to £688 million - but three of the ten bestsellers were children’s books by David Walliams. Readers might vote with their wallets but they can’t buy what the publishing industry doesn’t want to sell them.

Apparently The Bench started as a poem Meghan wrote for Prince Harry on Father’s Day, the month after Archie was born. I’ve had three kids and I don’t recall ever being moved to do something similar a month after giving birth, so all credit to her, quite frankly. There’s always the chance anyone shopping for The Bench might be tempted also to splurge on something by someone far less well known. That really would be a fairytale ending.

Sign up for the Telegraph Luxury newsletter for your weekly dose of exquisite taste and expert opinion.