The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have co-operated with the authors of an explosive new book that risks inflicting further anguish on the Royal Family, it was claimed last night.
Palace insiders expect the biography – provisionally entitled Thoroughly Modern Royals: The Real World Of Harry And Meghan – to paint a flattering portrait of the couple.
But there are fears it will also be a score-settling exercise in which Harry and Meghan’s strained relationship with the Royal Family and painful decision to quit Britain are revisited in uncomfortable detail.
The Mail on Sunday has been told that before moving to North America, the privacy-obsessed Sussexes gave an interview to the book’s authors, both journalists. One of them, Omid Scobie, is an acknowledged Meghan cheerleader and was one of the favoured journalists given details of the couple’s video call to the Queen last week in which they wished her a happy 94th birthday.
Just days after the Sussexes cut off the press, MoS is told they’ve helped two ‘friendly’ journalists write their story
Planning biography: Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle ‘give interviews to two journalists writing flattering biography about them entitled ‘Thoroughly Modern Royals’, which risks causing further anguish to Royal Family in bid to settle scores’
Biographer and journalist Omid Scobie planted his flag firmly in Meghan’s camp soon after she became linked to Harry. Having begun his journalistic career on the celebrity magazine Heat, British-Iranian Scobie had covered the Royals for a number of years and, say friends, was eager to boost his profile.
Aligning himself with a beautiful woman whose romance with Prince Harry was transfixing the world was one way of going about it.
Writing her biography one day would be another.
And so began his cultivation of Meghan, at first through her friends. Struggling to cope under intense media scrutiny after her wedding, the Duchess needed a journalist she could trust, a man whom she could rely on to fight her corner and not write nasty things. Scobie was happy to oblige and, perhaps unfairly and possibly through jealousy, was dubbed Meghan’s ‘mouthpiece’.
Anyone doubting where his allegiance lies, though, need only consider the fulsome piece he wrote for the Harper’s Bazaar website last month.
In it, he wrote of shadowing the Sussexes’ work, ‘getting to know the couple better through their humanitarian endeavours, engagements and overseas visits.’ He went on: ‘Their high-energy work ethic and passion for social justice attracted a new, more diverse demographic of royal watcher. As a young(ish), biracial royal correspondent, the change was exciting. And as their popularity grew around the world, so did a new golden era for the House of Windsor.’
Little wonder that he was one of the few favoured journalists invited to witness Meghan’s tearful farewell to staff at Buckingham Palace. In what must have delighted Meghan and Harry, he has written about the ‘almost daily mistruths’ of the British press.
Scobie teamed up with another Sussex-friendly journalist, Carolyn Durand. Well respected, she is a former producer with US broadcaster ABC and has covered the Royals for more than 15 years. Ms Durand now writes about the Royal Family for Elle magazine.
Scobie and Durand’s biography promises to tell the couple’s ‘real’ story. For that we must wait.
There are parallels with Princess Diana’s story. Like Meghan, she felt like a ‘prisoner in the palace’ and, desperate to express her torment, chose a biographer, Andrew Morton, to tell her story.
But unlike Scobie, there was nothing remotely ‘woke’ about Morton, a straight-talking Yorkshireman and seasoned Fleet Street operator.
Echoing Princess Diana’s secret involvement in the blockbuster biography, Diana: Her True Story, when she encouraged her friends to speak to author Andrew Morton, questions are being asked whether members of Meghan’s inner circle were being urged to help Scobie and his American co-author, Carolyn Durand.
The 320-page biography, due to be released on August 11, is expected to be a global bestseller.
Last week, Harry and Meghan launched an extraordinary broadside against the British media from their Hollywood hideout, announcing they would no longer ‘engage’ with certain newspapers in protest at the way they claim their lives are covered.
To the dismay of courtiers, the diatribe was issued on the eve of the Queen’s birthday and with the country paralysed by Covid-19.
News of the book comes as the first round of a legal dispute between the Duchess and The Mail on Sunday reached the High Court last week. The Duchess is suing this newspaper for publishing parts of a letter she sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, three months after he missed her wedding following a heart attack.
In court, claims that Mr Markle was harassed and exploited were disputed by Antony White QC for The Mail on Sunday.
He pointed out that it was ‘very curious’ the claims were ‘put on the record’ by the Duchess even though she had not contacted her father to see if he agreed with them and had not in fact spoken to him for two years.
According to sources, the book charts the Sussexes’ story from the outset of their romance. It was due to be published by New York-based Dey Street Books in June but was delayed, presumably because of the pandemic. While the publishers are keeping details of the biography under wraps, the ebook version is available to pre-order for £7.49.
Given the candour with which the Duke has spoken in recent months, those close to the Queen are concerned about what the couple might have divulged to the authors, both on and off the record. Earlier this year, the couple’s friend, ITV anchorman Tom Bradby, warned that a tell-all interview might irreparably damage a monarchy still reeling from Megxit and the scandal over Prince Andrew’s friendship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. It was during Bradby’s own interview with the couple in southern Africa last autumn that Harry confessed to a rift with Prince William.
Meghan also faced the cameras and complained about the pressures of motherhood under the media spotlight. ‘Not many people have asked if I am okay,’ she told Bradby. ‘It’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.’ She added: ‘I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip. I tried, I really tried. But I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging.’ Scobie, who writes about the Royals for Harper’s Bazaar website, and Durand, a former producer with US network ABC, began work on the project in the summer of 2018.
At the time, the Duchess was struggling with the realities of her new life and no longer enjoying the universal adulation generated by her wedding a few months earlier.
Revelations about the Duchess’s apparently high-handed manner were causing unease. It emerged that there had been a row between Harry and one of the Queen’s closest aides over the tiara the Duchess wanted to wear at her wedding.
Several tiaras had been considered, but the Queen did not want to lend the one Meghan preferred. Words were exchanged and Harry backed down.
Meanwhile, it was reported Meghan had complained about the mustiness of Windsor’s St George’s Chapel and wanted it sprayed with air freshener before the ceremony.
There are fears the book will also be a score-settling exercise in which Harry and Meghan’s strained relationship with the Royal Family and painful decision to quit Britain are revisited in uncomfortable detail
There was further trouble over the bridesmaids’ dresses, which was an early sign of the great tensions to come. It was reported that Meghan had reduced Kate, her soon-to-be sister-in-law, to tears, because of her manner.
Against this background of negative publicity, the authors launched their enquiries and, seeking assistance, approached the Palace. Some co-operation was given but it dried up after a few months.
Sources have said people began contacting the authors unbidden, anxious to set the record straight. It has been suggested that perhaps Meghan had become frustrated with the strictures of the Palace media operation. Just like Diana more than a quarter of a century earlier, she felt exposed and had decided to take control herself.
If all had gone to plan, the reputation management operation should have culminated in the book’s publication around the time of their son Archie’s birth last May, but it was delayed, quite possibly because of rapid developments in the couple’s life that the publishers wished to see chronicled.
For the authors, the extra time was a godsend. The following months brought a rich seam of new material. Unfolding before them was the high drama of Megxit, which deepened the rift between Harry and his brother and caused the Royal Family, particularly the Queen and Prince Charles, untold despair.
It is these still-festering wounds that the Palace fears the authors have picked over and have the potential to bring further upset.
It emerged that there had been a row between Harry and one of the Queen’s closest aides over the tiara the Duchess wanted to wear at her wedding
Any examination of the painful months leading to the couple’s decision to withdraw from Royal life is likely to focus on the break-up of the ‘Fab Four’ as the Royal brothers and their wives were dubbed.
Rumours of a rift began circulating when Harry and Meghan moved out of Kensington Palace and split their joint charitable venture.
The interview with ITV’s Tom Bradby came a few months later. Pouring forth their woes against a backdrop of some of the most deprived regions on Earth was widely seen as a mistake.
Since then, the couple have made numerous interventions, culminating in last week’s newspaper boycott. In January this year, Bradby said he had gleaned some insight into what a ‘tell-all interview’ might entail and it would ‘not be pretty’.
Harry remains sixth in line to the throne but his decision to pursue his own commercial interests means the Sussexes may no longer use their HRH titles.
At the historic Sandringham summit with the Queen in January, it was announced Harry and Meghan would forsake their Royal lives and seek their fortunes in America. They agreed not to enter into any deals which would bring the monarchy into disrepute.
Guiding the couple now are a team of mainly US professionals – a PR company, an agent, lawyer and business manager – who helped Meghan’s acting career. Already there have been several false steps. Palace aides had made it clear that due to the lockdown, the Queen would mark her birthday with calls from her family, but the details would remain private. Yet within moments of their video call from LA, Harry and Meghan instructed an aide to brief favoured journalists.
‘The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, along with Archie, have just held a video call with Her Majesty The Queen to wish her a happy birthday,’ tweeted one.
It was the latest in a series of unfortunate decisions taken by the couple while striving to build a new life outside of The Firm. Last month, for instance, Harry was publicly humiliated after being hoaxed by two Russian comics claiming to be teenage eco-warrior Greta Thunberg and her father.
Now believed to be staying in a gated community in Beverly Hills, the couple will be pitching for work – Meghan appeared on a US morning TV show last week to promote her voiceover for a Disney wildlife documentary about elephants.
Last night, Princess Diana’s former private secretary Patrick Jephson was scathing about the couple’s decision to grant an interview to Scobie and Durand.
‘Collaborating with pliable authors and magazine journalists while shunning those deemed awkward is standard Royal practice, but for Harry and Meghan it’s not just about image – for them it’s business: a vital part of the self-branding and marketing process,’ he said, writing in today’s Mail on Sunday.
Neither of the book’s authors was available for comment last night. Friends of the pair confirmed the book is scheduled for publication in August, subject to any last minute legal concerns.
No one from publishers Dey Street or parent company HarperCollins responded to calls.
Please stop riding on the coat-tails of the dutiful family you abandoned, Princess Diana’s former private secretary PATRICK JEPHSON urges Harry and Meghan to give up their ‘celebrity lives’
Patrick Jephson for the Mail on Sunday
Viewers of a solidly unflashy American TV business show might have thought they’d tuned in to the wrong channel last Friday. With a straight face, the anchor reported that bookmakers were offering odds of 100-1 that Meghan Markle would be elected US President in 2024.
Perhaps the item was intended as light relief amid the Covid gloom, yet after a short discussion, the anchor and his studio panellists seriously conceded that she was an unlikely but not impossible future occupant of the White House.
‘Perhaps the first Duchess to become President’ was the concluding thought, although nobody mentioned the technicality that holders of American public office are banned from using foreign titles. Still, it’s quite an idea. President Meghan. It’s surely no more unlikely than the story of how Ms Markle became a Duchess. And why should her talents not carry her further? Giving up her grand Royal handle might be a small price to pay for a shot at being the first female holder of the world’s most powerful office.
But there are other, less fanciful, reasons for the Sussexes to shed their Royal status, as we shall see. While the image of President Markle waving regally from the steps of Air Force One will appeal to the Duchess’s many devotees, the current reality of her life with the exiled ‘Call Me Harry’ is rather less glorious.
With a straight face, the anchor reported that bookmakers were offering odds of 100-1 that Meghan Markle would be elected US President in 2024
Consider. Whatever their long term ambitions – and, to be sure, President and First Laddie are probably not top of the list – their new life in the world capital of make-believe presents as many challenges as opportunities, not least financial.
Some hard-nosed forensic journalist-accountants have calculated an income of £20 million as the minimum the Sussexes will need to pull in every 12 months if they are to keep up celebrity-Royal appearances. The figure could easily be far more and, even if the analysis is wrong by half, that’s still an awful lot of elephant voice-overs.
Granted, the couple do have other potential income streams they might tap: there’s the Apple deal with Oprah, possible further work with Disney and a rich seam of endorsements and influencer deals to mine.
PLUS, is anybody surprised that they’ve co-operated with a book due out this summer with, no doubt, numerous dollar-spinning spin-offs? Collaborating with pliable authors and magazine journalists while shunning those deemed awkward is standard Royal practice, but for Harry and Meghan it’s not just about image – for them it’s business: a vital part of the self-branding and marketing process.
Yet here is the crux of the Sussexes’ dilemma: to rake in the necessary celebrity dosh they must leverage their Royal status to the maximum. After all, what else do they have to offer in exchange for the big cheques and star treatment? As their recent letter of complaint to British newspaper editors makes clear, their flight to LA has not induced them to drop an ounce of Royal haughtiness, as their hapless spokesman blared out their Royal titles in every paragraph.
The point couldn’t have been clearer: we don’t care about losing the HRH – all we, and our Hollywood best friends, want to put on the invitation cards is the Duke and Duchess bit. The trouble for Meghan and Harry is that this is a spectacularly bad time to trade on a fraying Royal connection.
It may have been years since the Royal Family had a real chance to do their job as the heart and soul of the kingdom but by God and by the grace of Covid they have it now.
Never in living memory (for most of her subjects) has the Queen better embodied the modest optimism and quiet resolve that define the best of British character. Her family in turn have played their part to justified acclaim, none more applauded than the relatable, telegenic and just plain decent Cambridges.
It seems an age ago that Meghan and Harry joined William and Catherine to form the ‘Fab Four’ of young Royal stars, whose charisma, approachability and fundraising potential seemed limitless. And so it might have been. It’s not yet time to explore why so many dreams came to grief, though let’s hope once normality returns there will be a discreet inquest into such a failure of Royal management.
Meanwhile, the inevitable revelations and bloodletting of the forthcoming court battles the Sussexes have launched against the most popular sections of British media may provide plenty of material for us to ponder.
Such considerations look out of place in a country – and world – still in a fight for its life against the cruel virus. Yet into this drama of survival Meghan and Harry have chosen to blunder with their petty tales of unhappiness and hurt feelings.
They and their celebrity publicists aren’t stupid. They can see that exile in Tinseltown is not a clever place from which to lecture the people they have abandoned on how to endure the worst crisis since the Second World War. They invite – and have duly received – much sarcastic mockery for their clumsy attempts to appear relevant from their luxurious lockdown in La-La-Land.
THEY must surely sense how out of touch, even borderline desperate, they appear. Yet – and here they may deserve sympathy – they have no alternative. They are currently in the audition of their lives, aspiring to be the toast of Hollywood. But they have chosen a pitiless spotlight – the here today, gone tomorrow favours of the world’s most ruthless chattering class.
There are other, less fanciful, reasons for the Sussexes to shed their Royal status, as we shall see
Common sense – and decency – would compel the Sussexes to hunker down with their baby in the temporary comfort of a borrowed mansion and hope the rest of us wouldn’t notice their period of wise invisibility. But they dare not, because to be invisible and un-royal now is to fail the audition. And that, they simply can’t afford. So expect plenty more ham-fisted paparazzi photo opportunities as they dole out supplies to deserving Hollywood Covid sufferers; be ready for more insights on the British response to the pandemic from the poolside prince; stand by for more plaintive screeds on the iniquities of the British media. This is just the jam the Sussexes have got themselves into and, like so much else that has befallen them, it is of their own doing.
So if we wish them success in their new adventure in the world’s entertainment capital, we must help them cast off ties to the institution and country they seem to think they’ve outgrown. Now, surely, is the time to unburden them from the stress of being half-celebrity, half-toxic Royal.
Their attempts to ride on the coat-tails of the hard-working family they have abandoned do nobody any good. In April 2020, real royalty isn’t Instagramming from Malibu but working here, among crowded hospitals and deserted streets. This is where historic Royal titles are earned and re-earned, and this is where Harry and Meghan must leave theirs. For their own good – and for the good of the Crown they claim to serve.
Far better not to look back in anger but concentrate instead on thriving in their new surroundings. And what better ambition to set themselves than the White House. Long odds at 100-1?
Ms Markle may indeed now settle for the life of quiet privacy she and Harry have said they want. But don’t bet on it.