The Duke and Duchess of Sussex might have been living across the pond for more than a year, but the couple have barely been out of the headlines since making the move. Whether it’s their various legal battles over paparazzi images, criticisms over how they’ve handled family relationships, or that bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, a lot has happened to Harry and Meghan in the past 12 months.
Hence a new epilogue has been included in the paperback release of Finding Freedom, an unauthorised biography of the couple written by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand. The legal team for Harry and Meghan has said that Scobie and Durand do not speak for the couple, and that the couple “did not collaborate with the authors on the book, nor were they interviewed for it”.
In the new epilogue, Scobie and Durand chart the Sussexes’ past year, examining everything from how the couple acquired their lavish nine-bedroom home in Santa Barbara, California (they took out a mortgage to help cover the cost) and Meghan’s miscarriage to alleged family tensions at the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in April.
The authors also look at the reports that surrounded Remembrance Sunday in 2020, when it was claimed that Prince Harry had been refused the opportunity to have a wreath laid on his behalf at the Cenotaph. Harry had spent 10 years in the military but gave up his military posts, including his role as Captain General of the Royal Marines, when he relocated to California and stepped down from his role in the royal family.
In Finding Freedom, the authors claim that a red poppy wreath had been ordered for Prince Harry with the Royal British Legion. “But as the day came and went, Harry’s gesture remained in its box at the charity’s headquarters in Kent.” Scobie and Durand go on to allege that Harry’s request was denied because he was no longer a “frontline royal”, with a “close source” to the Duke adding that he was “saddened and disappointed by the decision”. The source added: “Ten years of service and a lifetime commitment to the military community and this is how it’s been acknowledged by his family.”
Then there was the Oprah interview, which saw Harry and Meghan make a series of claims about their time in the royal family, including that a senior member made a racist remark about the colour of their unborn child’s skin, and that Meghan was denied help by a palace aide after expressing that she’d had suicidal thoughts. In response, the palace issued a statement saying that the royal family was “saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan”.
It continued: “The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved family members.”
Shortly after the interview aired, Prince William was asked about the interview during a visit to an east London school. As William left, a reporter asked: “Is the royal family a racist family, sir?” He replied: “We’re very much not a racist family.” In Finding Freedom, the authors write that, according to their sources, William “was understood to be ‘furious’ that private family matters were being discussed in the public domain” and will most likely not comment on the claims made in the Oprah interview again.
Meanwhile, a friend of Meghan’s told the authors that the Oprah interview was “cathartic” for the duchess. “All the things she had kept to herself or been too afraid to say [as a working member of the royal family] she felt safe to finally share. It was liberating,” they added. The authors also claim that no one in the royal family knew about the Oprah interview until it was announced publicly.
Scobie and Durand also discuss the timing of an article in The Times which claimed that bullying allegations had been made against Markle by a former aide in October 2018. The newspaper reported that the duchess drove out two personal assistants and left staff feeling “humiliated”. It said an official complaint was made by Jason Knauf, the then-communications secretary to Meghan and Harry. A spokesman for the duchess said at the time that she was “saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma”.
The allegations were reported four days before the Oprah interview was due to air. “Though the duchess was used to defamatory reports, this front-page story was more worrying,” write the Finding Freedom authors, who claim that the allegations gave the Sussexes more confidence in their decision to leave the royal family. A friend of the couple, meanwhile, told the authors: “It felt like certain individuals at the Palace were doing their very best to undermine and discredit anything they worried the couple may or may not say during the interview.”
Elsewhere, the epilogue claims that Harry and Meghan had a low-key celebration for their second wedding anniversary last May, when lockdown restrictions were still in place in California. Instead of going out, the couple chose to spend the day remembering their 2018 nuptials with people who had been involved in the ceremony, and concluded the festivities with a Mexican takeaway from a local restaurant. They also exchanged cotton-based gifts, as is traditional for second wedding anniversaries.
The book also looks at more recent events, such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, which saw Prince Harry and Prince William reunited face-to-face for the first time in almost 15 months. Despite reports that Prince William had requested to stand apart from Prince Harry during the funeral procession, the brothers were seen chatting on the day following the proceedings, which many took as a possible sign of reconciliation.
In Finding Freedom, a close source to Harry described the funeral as “surreal” for him, while another noted that, in terms of his relationship with the rest of the royal family, there had been “progress” and “efforts on all sides”. Another added that there is more to be done in terms of mending relationships, but the visit Harry made to the UK for the funeral had “broken the ice”.
Meghan did not attend the funeral, with a palace spokesperson saying at the time that she had made “every effort” to try and travel from the United States, but had not received medical clearance from her doctors to do so given how far along she was in her pregnancy with the couple’s second child. In Finding Freedom, the authors claim that several members of the royal family were “understood to have been ‘quietly pleased’” that Meghan did not attend because they “didn’t want a circus” or, as one senior royal source said, “the Duchess creating a spectacle”.
Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand ,is published in paperback on 31st August (HQ, £9.99)
The Independent has contacted Buckingham Palace for comment
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies