In telling the story of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, it is inevitable that other members of the Royal Family will play leading roles.
And in Finding Freedom, the hotly anticipated biography of the couple, published on Tuesday, the intricacies of relationships with certain relatives are laid bare.
The Prince of Wales is clearly much admired by Meghan, whom authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand reveal she found to be a trusted confidant who had “really changed her life for the better.”
“Not a father-in-law but a “second father,” a source reveals. It is also claimed that the Prince has a soft spot for Meghan and admires her confidence and energy.
However, her husband’s relationship with his father is clearly more complicated, amid suggestions that Harry felt he was more often more focused on his work than on family.
“Charles tended to be more of a presence at big family events,” one source is quoted as saying. “This isn't a family that pops by to say hi or texts each other to see how they’re doing. There’s a formalness there.”
Prince Charles' birthday photo a 'nightmare'
The book reveals that the Prince’s official 70th birthday photograph with his family was an "absolute nightmare" to plan because his sons blew "hot and cold" with their father.
"'Neither William nor Harry made much of an effort to make themselves available”, a source said.
The prince’s birthday, in 2018, was marked by the release of two official images, featuring the heir to the throne sat on a bench with Prince George on his knee, and sat next to him was the Duchess of Cornwall and Princess Charlotte.
Stood behind them were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with Prince Louis, alongside the Sussexes.
“While Charles may be father to Harry, he's also their boss, and that makes the relationship complex for a number of reasons,” a source states.
"'Charles is extremely focused on his public image, and there have been times Harry has felt that has taken precedence over everything else.”
Kate and Meghan's relationship
The Duchess's relationship with her sister-in-law is presented as rather more fraught than that with her father-in-law.
It is the Duchess of Cambridge, rather than her husband, who comes in for the most stinging criticism, after apparently being “indifferent” about meeting Meghan and then failing to extend a hand of friendship.
“Despite the fact that Harry was a regular guest in her household, Kate had seemingly not shown much interest in finding out who this woman was who had made her brother-in- law so happy,” the book states.
However, it concedes that when the two women did meet, the Duchess told Meghan she was “always welcome to contact her if she needed anything.”
Princess Eugenie also comes in for mild criticism, as the authors claim she had expressed frustration with the Sussexes decision to announce that they were expecting a baby at the same time as her wedding. It was also said to be one of her members of staff who tipped off a journalist about their relationship, after the two couples had secretly gone on two double dates.
Royal fans starved of detail about the couple’s son, Archie, will delight in the many snippets the book offers up about the youngest royal.
Meghan described the moment she first held her son as “ecstasy.. total bliss and contentment.”
She had settled on the private Portland Hospital as she entered her final trimester, the book reveals, and was ultimately relieved to be giving birth in the safest way possible.
The couple had known they were having a boy for several months, “quietly sharing” the news with friends, including Amal Clooney, at her baby shower in New York.
The tot’s birth was shrouded in secrecy but the authors divulge that “Archie was alert as soon as he arrived - eyes wide open.”
As a baby, he was “in the ninetieth percentile for height” the Duchess had boasted to friends.
Shortly after his birth, the couple hired a night nanny “to establish a sleep schedule and be an extra pair of helping hands” but they were forced to let her go in the middle of her second shift “for being unprofessional” the book claims.
The couple hired a second night nurse but their experience with the first left lasting scars.
Whatever had happened, they felt unable to fully relax at night without checking on their son and so eventually decided to take on the nights themselves, instead hiring a nanny to work week days.
Neither the nanny nor their housekeeper lived in, the book reveals, because Prince Harry had witnessed his brother’s arrangement (the Cambridges have two live-in members of staff) “and didn’t want the same for his own family.” He liked the idea that it was just the three of them in the house, “cozy and private”.
Early last summer, Archie started taking swimming lessons, but only after his nervous parents had looked up videos on YouTube about how babies hold their breath under water.
The Duchess sent videos of Archie to Harry to “lift his spirits” in January, while he was London thrashing out the terms of their exit deal with royal aides, including one documenting the first time he saw snow.
Harry and Meghan’s love story
Both Harry and Meghan “did their homework” and Googled each other before their first date, the books reveals.
But they needn’t have bothered. The couple were “obsessed” with each other from the get-go and the book documents many of their intimate moments together, including the first time Meghan visited Harry at Nottingham Cottage.
Harry was “every bit the gentleman,” it reveals, who would always gesture for Meghan to go first.
Their third official date was a luxury trip to Botswana, of which almost every detail is pored over, from the “cozy, hand woven comforters” on the teak beds to their breakfast choices (bacon and eggs for him, fruit and yoghurt for her).
Harry was “delightfully surprised by Meghan's down-to-earth attitude” the book notes, detailing how she cleaned her face with baby wipes and “happily wandered into the woodlands if she needed a bathroom break.”
One of its biggest revelations is that the couple secretly got engaged on a later trip to Botswana, several weeks before Harry officially popped the question over a roast chicken back in London.
The Duke had earlier gone on a “secret diamond scouting” mission with a friend who helped him source “the perfect conflict-free stone.”
The book also reveals that “prayer and conversations with God” play a significant role in their relationship and that they have “been on a journey of faith together.”
As a couple, they enjoyed curling up to watch boxsets such as Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, while both are said to have a penchant for self help books.
Meghan “fell hard” after getting her first glimpse of how Prince Harry would be as a father, watching him win over her best friend Jessica Mulroney’s children with ease, the book reveals.
However, it is less than flattering about the Duchess’s first husband, the “brash” Trevor Engelson, who has never spoken publicly about their relationship.
Mr Engelson is accused of failing to support Meghan’s burgeoning acting career and preferring her to be dependent on him.
As widely suspected, the authors confirm that the couple had been planning a move to the US ever since they decided to step away from royal life and had carefully chosen the words “North America” in their public statements to allow them the opportunity to relocate when the time was right.
The Duchess was given training in everything from curtsying to surviving kidnapping attempts as royal aides prepared her for life in The Firm.
Various experts were employed to teach the American actress “how to most gracefully exit your chauffeured sedan while wearing a pencil skirt” and “when to courtesy to members of the family several rungs up the hierarchy from you.”
Like Kate Middleton before her, she also underwent a two-day security course with the SAS, when she was "bundled into the back of a car" by a "terrorist" and driven to a location before she was saved by officers.
However, the Duchess was apparently disappointed not to be offered etiquette lessons.
Her friends were also offered social media advice and given “one-on-one” training sessions with Jason Knauf, the former Kensington Palace communications secretary, who taught them the “dos and don’ts of Twitter”, not least to ensure they did not give away Meghan’s location to prying eyes. Meghan’s mother Doria was also given advice.
Sophie Trudeau, Canada’s First Lady, is credited as being a key ally for Meghan in the early days.
“Sophie’s a smart woman and the perfect brain for Meghan to pick. She knows how difficult something like this is,” a source said.
“For those of us that knew about their friendship, it was amazing to see the change in Meghan that followed."
Private royal meetings
The book is brimming with extraordinary detail on some of the couple’s private meetings with members of the Royal Family.
When Meghan was first introduced to William, he said he had been “looking forward to meeting the girl who has put that silly grin on my brother’s face.”
The trio “walked straight past the drawing room, with its neutral color palette accented by important antiques and artwork,” the authors reveal.
Similarly, when Meghan was first introduced to the Queen, in the “inner sanctum” of her private Buckingham Palace apartment, she takes in the “maroon-and-cream Aubusson carpet accented with a floral-and-scroll pattern” as well as the Old Master paintings hanging on eggshell blue walls.
“It was a paler shade of Tiffany blue with the most spectacular ornate crown moldings that Meghan had ever seen,” the book gushes. “Was she really meeting with the head of the Commonwealth?”
The Duchess appears to have been less impressed with Harry’s “humble” Nottingham Cottage, where, later in their relationship she filled an entire bedroom with her clothes.
The Duchess has made no secret of her frustrations with the sometimes anarchic inner workings of the palace and the book provides a few salient examples.
She was said to have become exasperated with aides “flip-flopping between decisions,” not least as they agonised over when the couple should first be photographed together.
“Heads nodded all around on one idea, only to have an aide at another household dismiss the entire plan as a bad idea the very next day,” it states.
“If there was this much debate over a photo, what was going to happen if Meghan wanted to speak her mind about something?”
On one occasion, a senior palace aide is even said to have contacted Oprah Winfrey after she offered Meghan’s mother her support in LA, to ensure she was not simply using their friendship to get an interview.
The book settles one or two scores with staff, the first being over the departure of Meghan’s personal assistant, Melissa Toubati, whom newspapers had described as hugely talented and whose loss would be keenly felt.
Not so. “According to multiple sources familiar with her sudden departure, despite the glowing press accounts, the couple had grown dissatisfied with Melissa’s work and were not disappointed when she left,” the authors claim.
“Meghan wondered if someone at Kensington Palace, where Melissa had some good friends, was more interested in protecting one of their own than her.”
The book also documents, in great detail, the visit the couple paid to Buckingham Palace to try on various tiaras for the wedding and appears to confirm newspaper reports that she was initially set on wearing one set with emeralds.
In the event, Angela Kelly, the Queen’s personal dresser, and the monarch, together came up with five options, which were presented to Meghan for her consideration.
“With Meghan seated in front of a full-length mirror, each tiara was carefully placed upon her head, until a decision was made,” the book documents.
“The Queen agreed with Meghan upon her choice of (Queen Mary’s) tiara for the wedding. Meghan tried on all five but knew right away which one she liked best. “It was a special moment for both of them.
“When more than a year later the story broke about Meghan demanding a different tiara to wear on her wedding day, she called a friend and said, ‘How sad, I love my tiara.’”