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Finding Freedom book news – live: Meghan underwent mock kidnapping training before wedding and felt ‘devastated’ over father Thomas Markle

Follow live as we read Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand’s illuminating biography of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex

Sabrina Barr
Wednesday 12 August 2020 14:30
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Harry and Meghan: A timeline

Ever since it was reported that Prince Harry had started dating Suits actor Meghan Markle, the world has been captivated by their relationship. The pair was first romantically linked in 2016, before announcing their engagement in November 2017, marrying at Windsor castle six months later and welcoming their son Archie in May 2019.

However it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, they have also had to cope with significant struggles, dealing with an unprecedented level of intrusion into their lives, navigating racial abuse directed at Meghan and facing rumours of a rift between them and fellow members of the royal family.

On Tuesday 11 August, Finding Freedom, a biography about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, is being published. Written by royal journalists Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, the book documents the reporters’ experience of working in close proximity to the couple.

While a spokesperson for the duke and duchess has told The Independent that they had no involvement in the book – it is “based on the authors’ own experiences” in the royal press corps – it promises insight into their lives, their work, and their decision to step away from royal life, following interviews with over 100 royal insiders.

Here is our report on Finding Freedom as we read the book from start to finish:

Please allow a moment for the live blog to update.

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Facing an unpredictable future

It all seemed too good to be true. Meghan and Harry’s connection was reportedly off the charts, they had so far managed to keep their new relationship a secret from the press, and Harry had even discreetly travelled to Toronto in Canada to visit Meghan at her townhouse. While Meghan and Harry were “dancing around the idea that this just may be a forever thing”, friends repeatedly warned the couple that it wouldn't stay perfect forever.

Especially with the media coverage on the horizon.

According to Scobie and Durand, a British friend of Meghan informed her that the tabloids “hate royal wives and girlfriends”, warning her: “They will come after you,” and adding: “Look at Diana.”

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Mental health on the mind

When Harry met Meghan in 2016, he had reached a pivotal moment in his life. In 2015, the prince made the decision to end his career with the British Army following a decade of service. According to a source, he was reportedly suffering panic attacks when he attended royal engagements. The source told the authors that one time when Harry left an event for a humanitarian emergency response charity, “he just started taking in deep breaths” and was “on edge”.

His army service added to the mental impact of losing his mother in 1997, when he was 12 years old. In 2005, Harry told reporters of the close bond he shared with his older brother William, saying that the pair can “talk about anything”. “We understand each other and give each other support,” he said.

Fast-forward 11 years, and Harry, William and Kate Middleton have launched Heads Together, a mental health campaign that the brothers largely credit the Duchess of Cambridge for beginning. According to the Finding Freedom authors, the initial idea for the initiative was “scribbled on the back of a cigarette pack one night”.

The campaign marked a turning point for the younger members of the royal family, who shed the British stiff upper lip to speak openly about struggles they had experienced with their mental health and to inspire others to do the same.

sabrina.barr11 August 2020 12:15
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The “L” word

Having begun their relationship with few expectations, they quickly realised this was the real deal and demonstrated their commitment to one another in a matter of weeks. Three months in, Meghan and Harry said “I love you” to one another, with Harry being the first of the two to take the plunge, the authors write.

“From there it didn’t take long for them to begin talking in non-oblique terms about their future,” they add.

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Bumping into famous faces

What’s the likelihood of bumping into an A-list celebrity while paying a visit to an animal shelter? If you’re in LA, your chances are definitely higher than most. While cuddling her future rescue dog Bogart (or Bogs, as Meghan reportedly calls him), American talk show host Ellen DeGeneres walked in with her wife, actor Portia de Rossi.

While DeGeneres wasn’t aware of Meghan’s identity at the time, she strongly encouraged the Suits actor to rescue the pup, as the owner of several pets herself. Meghan later credited DeGeneres with being the reason why she adopted the dog. What a small, star-studded world it is for a celebrity in the City of Angels. Not sure we'd get that at Battersea.

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Hiding in plain sight

According to the Finding Freedom authors, Harry visiting Meghan at her home in Canada was an “open secret” among her neighbourhood. Fortunately, the “paparazzi presence” in Toronto did not compare to other big cities, such as LA or London, where the couple would be more likely to be hounded with attention if they were spotted. 

They also had several friends to fall back on, who lent them their homes so they could spend time together in secluded residences. During a stay at the Los Angeles home of Arthur Landon, a film director and close friend of Harry’s, the prince met Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, for the first time.

A source reportedly told the authors that while Meghan had previously only introduced her mother to men she was dating when their relationships were at a later stage, “she wanted her mom to see the real Harry. The man she was falling in love with”.

And fortunately, Ragland “could see he was genuine”, a friend told the authors.

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The “unfair” blame game

Placing blame on Meghan for her and Prince Harry’s decision to step down from the royal family is “unfair”, Finding Freedom author Omid Scobie tells The Independent.

In a new interview, Scobie explains how the book came about without the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s involvement, how Harry has “always struggled” with the pressures that come with being a member of the royal family and the way Meghan was reportedly perceived from within “The Firm”.

To read more, click the link below.

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Keeping attention to a minimum

Meghan was allegedly warned not to wear a necklace with the initials “M and H” on it for fear of drawing unnecessary attention to herself, Finding Freedom claims.

The authors recall how a couple of days after being photographed wearing the accessory while buying flowers at her florist, “she received a phone call from a senior Kensington Palace aide”.

"She was advised that wearing such a necklace only served to encourage the photographers to keep pursuing such images - and new headlines,” the author state.

Meghan also reportedly received training in curtsying and for situations such as surviving a kidnap and hostage situation, the book says.

To read more, click the link below.

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A hint of what was to come

Finding Freedom claims that when Meghan told her friend she was going on a date with Prince Harry, the friend turned round and said the Suits actor would become the “most wanted woman”.

Meghan’s London-based agent, Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne, reportedly tried to explain the tabloid culture in Britain to Meghan, to emphasise the microscope she would be placed under.

To read more, click the link below.

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Behind the facade

In a turn of events that could easily have been taken from a romantic novel, four months into their relationship Meghan and Harry attended a pre-Halloween costume party at Soho House in Toronto. They reportedly both wore Venetian-style masks in an effort to conceal their identities (Romeo and Juliet anyone?). But, they need not have worried, as patrons were encouraged not to take photographs so Meghan and Harry managed to avoid any prying glares.

According to the authors they were joined by Princess Eugenie, Prince Harry’s cousin and close friend, and her partner, Jack Brooksbank, who she ended up marrying just a few months after Meghan and Harry tied the knot.

With around six years between them, Harry “had always confided in his cousin when it came to the women in his life”, the authors claim. And apparently Meghan left a positive impression on Eugenie, who described the actor as “just the tonic” for Harry, the book states.

However, after a night of frivolities, Harry received a call from an aide at Kensington Palace who informed him that The Sunday Express was preparing to run a piece about their relationship. News that thrust their relationship into the public eye for the first time.

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Prepare to brace

Neither Meghan or Harry were strangers to the world of the paparazzi when news of their relationship hit the headlines. According to the authors, before she met Harry, Meghan would on occasion “set up a paparazzi photo here and there or let info slip out to the press”. But the attention she would receive as the woman rumoured to be Prince Harry’s girlfriend would be next level.

Into the fifth chapter we go, titled ‘A Prince’s Stand’ – a hint, perhaps, that we will hear about the efforts Harry went to behind the scenes to protect Meghan.

sabrina.barr11 August 2020 14:15

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