Harry, Meghan and memories of Princess Diana: The dark side of royalty

December 6, 2020 1:15 AM

Harry and Meghan’s story is too fresh to be re-read in a book

A file photo of Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan in Sydney, Australia (AP photo)A file photo of Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan in Sydney, Australia (AP photo)

By Reya Mehrotra

Whatever they might do or not do, the British royals are rarely out of news. Diana continues to evoke interest years after her death, with BBC recently conducting an inquiry whether her famous interview to Martin Bashir in 1995 was secured through unethical means. Harry and wife Meghan shook the world when they renounced their royal duties and privileges, and with Meghan’s powerful article recently describing her miscarriage, the world is tuned to the royals yet again. The couple’s recent book, Finding Freedom, just reinforces that interest.

Diana had once told her son, “You can be naughty. Just don’t get caught.” It seems Harry took only the first part of the advice seriously. Often caught partying and in the middle of troubles, Meghan bought much-needed balance in his world. In finding love, he found himself. The normalcy-craving prince and the girl from another ‘normal’ world instantly bonded. The first few chapters of the book follow a Harry-in-trance as he meets Meghan and the dawn of their love before transcending into the trials and tribulations that are a part and parcel of the royal life, and the infamous Megxit.

Harry had grown in his mother’s liberating shadow. Growing up, he had everything in the world, yet found joy in plastic Happy Meal toys. Often finding himself a misfit, he found a woman who, like his mother, mirrored his drive to support those on the margins of society. But when it became too much, he rebelled just like his mother.

As for Meghan, she was destined for greatness right from the start. Growing up, she dreamt of becoming the president of the US, and at 11, the sparkling young girl brought down a sexist TV commercial and made world leaders take note. Perfecting every role she slipped into, be it in the academia, as an actress or as the royal wife, she strived for excellence. Like him, revolting against convention as what she did. Her anonymous blog, The Working Actress was a tell-all about actors losing roles because of appearance rather than talent. Her tryst with racism had begun early on. When on The Wendy Williams Show, Meghan was labelled ‘Prince Harry’s girlfriend’, Priyanka Chopra had quipped, “Also Meghan Markle the actress, Suits, her achievements.” And she, indeed, was much more than just the title the royal association brought along. Six years in Suits and the actress had a successful lifestyle website The Tig, named after her favourite wine Tignanello and close associations with the who’s-who of Hollywood.

Written by royal journalists Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family comes across as just what it is—a story that the world already knows, only with some fresh details, the story of the royal couple’s frustration with the media, the intrusion of their privacy and lack of support from the royal family. The book offers glimpses into their private meets, parties, getaways, associations and early dates that have been hidden away from the world, but the majority of the chapters focus and narrate what is already known—her growing up years, Harry’s unshackled ways, his wild party phase, the hounding by the press, her transition, her fallout with her father and the growing quest for freedom from it all.

And because of this the book falls flat in retaining attention. The events narrated are rather too fresh in public memory to be read yet again. With The Crown playing out Diana’s tryst with the media currently and the book describing in length Meghan’s own stereotypical, racist and discriminatory trial, the book can be read in the context of media and monarchy. One would rather hope for The Crown to extend one another season dedicated to the paradoxically opposite brothers.

Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family
Omid Scobie & Carolyn Durand
HarperCollins
Pp 368, Rs 599

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