The impending publication of Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family has been immersed in some serious hype, the likes of which would make any publisher squeal with delight. How could it not? Following their departure from the House of Windsor, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain hot property among the press, perhaps even more so since they publicly rejected the decades-long special relationship between the newspapers and the so-called Firm. Authors Carolyn Durand and Omid Scobie, the latter of whom is widely regarded as the closest ally of Meghan and Harry within the royal press corps, have also been selling their tell-all hard, with exclusive excerpts promising a juicy read that will strip bare the lies and smears that plagued Ms. Markle’s arrival within the hallowed halls of the monarchy. Finally, Team Sussex would have the floor, and everyone else should be running scared, as evidenced by recent stories claiming that Kate Middleton is extremely worried about the book’s contents. It’s all gonna go down, right?
I’m sorry to report to all the royal watchers who were hoping for a scandal that Finding Freedom is altogether a much more respectable read than they were probably expecting. Dare I say it but it’s all rather dull. There are no drag-down fights in the palace, no shocking revelations to shake anyone to their core, and a disappointing lack of mud-slinging. Indeed, everything on show here is either predictable, previously reported, or somewhat disappointing.
Then again, that’s probably the point.
Excited to announce that #FindingFreedom, a biography written by myself and @CarolynDurand, will be available worldwide in August.— Omid Scobie (@scobie) May 4, 2020
For the first time, go beyond the headlines and discover the true story of Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex.https://t.co/A7B06EMaDa pic.twitter.com/KjGD9DcXaV
Some members of the notoriously cloistered British press, as well as the more fervent royal fans of social media, have already slammed the book as propaganda, a shamelessly pro-Sussex read that is designed solely to reflect them in the best possible light. Putting aside the fact that most of these people can’t have possibly read the book since it only dropped today (seriously, check out the Goodreads and Amazon ratings on this), I’m not sure what their point is. Is this book an unabashedly hagiographic take on two royals?
Yeah, of course it is. All royal reporting is in some way, shape, or form. While the book takes pains to note that no member of the royal family can officially approve or endorse such a biography, it’s hardly a secret that the extended Windsor clan like to foster the right collaborations with savvy and sympathetic journalists. It’s a key means of keeping the royals relevant and in the public’s good graces, especially as republican sentiments grow ever more popular across Britain and the Commonwealth. So nobody should be clutching their pearls at the idea of the Sussexes getting their book (a note that an anti-Sussex royal memoir was conveniently released a month before Finding Freedom, a sign of just how frenzied this patch of the business is.)
Finding Freedom is more a book of intent than revelation. Scobie and Durand are here less to set the record straight in the traditional means than show how said records were formed in the first place. An instance of Meghan’s supposedly un-royal behavior will be noted then precedence for it will be cited, whether it’s her wearing of dark nail polish at a public event or the Sussexes’ acceptance of an official residence from the Queen. Even Harry’s supposedly ground-breaking calling out of the press over their treatment of Meghan during the early days of their romance is shown as near-identical in tactics to the Cambridges’ condemnation of press intrusion in Prince George’s life. The repetition of these points ultimately makes for some mundane reading, but once again, that’s kind of the point. The absurd machinations of royal life — the battles between courtiers, the blending of work with family, the tenuous ties to the press — are really dull in practice and at their most interesting in the abstract.
Scobie and Durand depict Meghan as a savvy and ambitious woman who has always possessed the work ethic to match her lofty goals. Her navigation of Hollywood throughout her acting career is celebrated, a noted contrast from overwhelming narratives that position her as a social-climber. There are glimmers of interest in these moments but the book is clearly straining to fill up its page count. This thing is more padded than the contestants of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Given how much time sources insist that Meghan wants to be seen as more than a clothes horse, Scobie and Durand spend a lot of time stuffing paragraphs with lavish descriptions of the brand names she wears. This only further highlights how little the authors have to go on with their objectives. Everything up to the royal wedding is regurgitated from well-trodden territory. If you’ve read practically any Markle profile of the past four years, you’ll know the first 40% of this book like the back of your hand.
So, what does Finding Freedom reveal? Not much but there are glimmers that will undoubtedly provide the press and fans with something to chew on for the next few weeks. Scobie and Durand speculate that the leak about Harry and Meghan’s relationship came from the offices of either Princess Eugenie or Prince Andrew (yikes.) Details of Meghan’s father and his increasingly vindictive estrangement from his daughter with a little help from the press provide some of the book’s bleaker moments. Otherwise, if you were hoping for some real dirt, you’ll be left disappointed (sorry, everyone hoping for more on Rose Hanbury.)
Even the oft-gossiped over relations between the Sussexes and the rest of the royals seem tempered when described here. Harry and Williams’s closeness is no more but not left irrevocably broken. The Queen seems pretty cool with the split and their departure from the royals is described as messy but more because of the sheer complexities of sorting out such entanglements. Even the supposed war between Meghan and Kate is shown merely as two very different women at different points in their lives being cordial with one another while remaining loyal to their spouses. If you were hoping for some expansion on the much-discussed rumors of the Cambridges briefing against the Sussexes, you’ll find none of that here.
The truth is that most royal biographies of solid repute are dull affairs, and even a book designed to celebrate the supposed liberation of one of its most beloved couples has to toe a whole lot of lines. Finding Freedom ends up arriving with a whimper rather than the bang promised by the hype, but seriously, that’s the point. It’s not designed to change minds or pull back the curtain on the almighty powers-that-be because royalty as a whole isn’t. This is what you get, even if you’re excluding yourself from the Windsors altogether.
Death to the monarchy.
Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family is now available wherever books are sold.
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