They all insist that there were no interviews and that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not contribute to Finding Freedom – but questions remained last night about how the authors managed to secure such access and detail about the couple and their lives.
Intriguingly, co-author Omid Scobie recently described how he ‘hugged’ Meghan during an emotional farewell in March just hours before she quit Britain and has also boasted of enjoying a ‘one-on-one’ discussion with Harry.
The Sussexes, who now live in California, attempted to distance themselves from the book.
A spokesman said that the couple ‘were not interviewed and did not contribute to Finding Freedom’, adding: ‘The book is based on the authors’ own experiences as members of the royal press corps and their own independent reporting.’
The Sussexes, who now live in California, attempted to distance themselves from the book
In an interview with The Times, Mr Scobie appeared to choose his words carefully when he was quizzed about the level of access, if any, that was granted to him and Ms Durand. ‘The book doesn’t claim to have any interviews with Harry and Meghan. And nor do we,’ he said.
Asked whether there had been an ‘off-the-record’ discussion, he said: ‘You’ve read the book. There’s no on-the-record interviews with the couple.’ Pressed again on the same question, he replied: ‘No, and I think that you can tell from the reporting, my time around the couple is enough for me to know my subjects.’
Mr Scobie, 39, has not previously been shy to discuss the access to the couple that he has enjoyed as a royal reporter.
Writing in American magazine Harper’s Bazaar in March, he described covering the Sussexes ‘farewell tour’ in February and March before they left the UK for their new life in North America. He detailed how he ‘joined the Duke of Sussex in Edinburgh’ on February 26 for a summit on sustainable and ethical tourism.
‘Chatting with him one-on-one recently I was struck by how knowledgeable he has become in this field,’ Mr Scobie said. ‘As one of the attendees at the Edinburgh work summit whispered to me after his speech, “He’s about to change the game for good.”’
Mr Scobie was also one of three journalists invited to cover Meghan’s penultimate Royal engagement on March 9 when she met 22 students who had received scholarships from the Association of Commonwealth Universities at Buckingham Palace. The meeting, held in the 1844 Room, took place shortly before Harry and Meghan attended the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey where the frosty atmosphere between the couple and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was clearly evident.
Mr Scobie described hugging Meghan during emotional scenes at Buckingham Palace before the couple left for the Abbey.
‘Back at Buckingham Palace, the ACU students now en-route to Westminster Abbey and Harry quietly slipping through the door to say hello, the reality – and the emotions – finally set in as I give Meghan a goodbye hug,’ he said.
There is as yet no hint that the couple plan to take legal action against the authors and publishers of Finding Freedom
‘She’s flying back to Canada on the last commercial flight of the day, eager to be back in Vancouver Island by the morning before Archie wakes up.’
He added: ‘At this point, the 1844 Room is almost empty and tears that the Duchess had been bravely holding back are free to flow among familiar faces.’ It is unclear if any private conversations that Mr Scobie may have shared with the couple are included in Finding Freedom. However, some passages do include quotations from comments that the couple have told ‘friends’.
For example, one section has Harry telling a friend: ‘I don’t need to have that movie moment where we get out of a car and wave to a hundred photographers before going into a building.’
Another describes how Harry’s ‘stomach tied into the same knot’ every time he read critical or offensive comments posted about him and his wife in response to newspaper articles.
The book also quotes Harry saying: ‘It’s a sick part of the society we live in today, and no one is doing anything about it. Where’s the positivity? Why is everyone so miserable and angry?’
In another passage, Meghan is reported as ‘tearfully’ telling a ‘friend’ in March: ‘I gave up my entire life for this family. I was willing to do whatever it takes. But here we are. It’s very sad.’
While Harry and Meghan have publicly distanced themselves from the book, there is as yet no hint that the couple – who have increasingly made use of lawyers to control what they consider to be media intrusion – plan to take legal action against the authors and publishers of Finding Freedom.
Author who thinks he’s Meghan’s soulmate
By Ian Gallagher, chief reporter for the Mail on Sunday
Omid Scobie has long been a Meghan apostle. While his co-author Carolyn Durand has offered support to the Sussex cause, his is unequivocal, his loyalty beyond question.
The reward has, it appears, been access to sources seemingly beyond the reach of others and a biography that, according to The Times, rivals ‘Diana: Her True Story’ by Andrew Morton.
That book sensationally revealed Prince Charles’s adultery and his wife’s bulimia. So far, at least, ‘Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family’ is distinctly lighter on spicy revelations.
Having begun his journalistic career on the celebrity magazine Heat, Mr Scobie had covered the Royals for a number of years and, according to friends, was eager to boost his profile when American journalist Ms Durand suggested the idea for a book.
Spicy or not, it is expected to make them a small fortune.
Like the Duchess, Mr Scobie, who grew up in Oxfordshire, describes himself as bi-racial. ‘She was a bi-racial woman stepping into the House of Windsor,’ the Scottish-Iranian journalist told The Times in an interview published yesterday, later adding: ‘I am a bi-racial royal correspondent. There aren’t many of us.’
Other things in common with the Duchess include a weakness for designer labels (Mr Scobie even has a penchant for Chanel skis) and a love of dogs. His Instagram account is full of images of his French bulldog.
When his Times interviewer suggested, ‘People will say that [he] has fallen in love with the Duchess,’ Mr Scobie replied: ‘That’s definitely something I’ve seen a lot of online and in certain newspaper commentary.
Co-authors: Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand wrote the book Finding Freedom together
‘I certainly connect to this story in a way that makes it more meaningful to me.’
Born within a month of each other, Meghan and Mr Scobie both turn 40 next year – not that this was apparent in yesterday’s interview to plug his book during which he knocked six years off his age.
The article begins: ‘Andrew Morton was nearly 40 when in 1992 he wrote Diana: Her True Story, the book that revealed the Prince of Wales to be an adulterer and his wife an unhappy bulimic who had attempted suicide. Omid Scobie, the royal editor of Harper’s Bazaar, has just turned 33 and with his co-author … Carolyn Durand, is about to publish a biography that rivals it.’
In fact, Mr Scobie celebrated his 39th birthday earlier this month.
Friends describe Mr Scobie as ‘quite a laugh’. One said: ‘When you see him, he always has the latest iPhone and the latest designer man bag.’
In an article for Harper’s Bazaar, he described 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.’
Beginning shortly after the Sussexes’ wedding, Mr Scobie spent two years writing the book with Ms Durand, a former producer with US broadcaster ABC who has covered the Royals for more than 15 years. She now writes about the Royal Family for Elle magazine.
While they do not claim to have interviewed Harry and Meghan, the authors have boasted of it being written ‘with the participation of those closest to the couple’ and of having spoken to members of Harry and Meghan’s ‘inner circle’.