A New Narrative About Harry & Meghan's Royal Exit Is Now Emerging, Insiders Say
A comment from the co-author of "Finding Freedom" is raising eyebrows in the U.K.
Earlier this week, the paperback edition of Finding Freedom, last year's tell-all chronicling Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex's life behind Palace walls, was published with a new epilogue that includes the Sussexes' tumultuous first year after leaving their senior royal roles behind.
Within the 25 new pages in the revised book, co-authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand offer up a long list of fresh claims against the Royal Family involving some of the most controversial and talked about episodes that have taken place since the Sussexes settled in California. Many of those stories came to light from the couple's interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021. Among the details about the fallout from the televised sit-down, the authors report Prince William was "furious" over the interview and some royals were "quietly pleased" that Meghan did not attend Prince Philip's funeral. One of Scobie and Durand's most explosive claims, however, is that Meghan and Harry considered naming the allegedly racist royal who voiced "concerns" over the color of their yet-to-be-born son's skin, but ultimately decided against it. (Harry later told Oprah it was not Philip or Queen Elizabeth.)
But it's another bit of tea Scobie spilled while talking about the book that's causing a stir. The co-author, who's considered to be one of Harry and Meghan's closest allies and staunchest supporters, made some comments about their royal exit during a recent interview that are raising eyebrows in Britain. Read on to find out why.
Omid Scobie made a claim during a recent television appearance that some say contradicts earlier statements about the couple's exit.
In early 2020, Harry said he had no choice but to leave England because of the non-stop and frequently negative coverage he and Meghan received at the hands of the British tabloids. But many critics have pointed out that Harry in particular has hardly been camera shy since arriving on North American soil.
During an appearance on Good Morning America earlier this week to promote the updated Finding Freedom, reporter Will Reeve told Scobie it was "hard to square" the couple's earlier expressed wish for privacy when they exited royal life with their ubiquitous media presence since moving to California.
The Finding Freedom co-author clarified that Harry and Meghan never had any intention of completely bowing out of the public eye in search of privacy. "It's not that they want to disappear or not be seen," he said. "It's simply that they want to choose what they keep private and what they share with the world.
Harry has cited multiple reasons why the royal couple left their roles, including the British tabloids and a lack of support within the Institution.
When asked for a short answer about why they ultimately left the U.K. during their sit-down with Winfrey, Harry said it was twofold: "lack of support and lack of understanding."
Days earlier, Harry appeared on his friend James Corden's late night show and explained he had to leave Britain to protect his family because the "toxic" press was destroying their mental health.
"It was never walking away. It was stepping back rather than stepping down. It was a really difficult environment, as I think a lot of people saw. We all know what the press can be like. And it was destroying my mental health. I was like, 'This is toxic,'" Harry told Corden. "So I did what any husband and what any father would do, is like, 'I need to get my family out of here.' But we never walked away. And as far as I'm concerned, whatever decisions are made on that side, I will never walk away. I will always be contributing. But my life is public service, so wherever I am in the world, it's gonna be the same thing."
When Corden asked about Royal Family drama depicted on The Crown, Harry made another comment about the British press. "I'm way more comfortable with The Crown than I am seeing the stories written about my family and my wife and myself. Because it's the difference between, that is obviously fiction, take it how you will, but this is being reported on as fact because you're supposedly news. I have a real issue with that," he said.
During the Winfrey interview, Harry also painted a dire picture for Winfrey when he told her that if he and Meghan remained in England his "biggest fear" was "history repeating itself," drawing a direct parallel between the tragic end his mother, Princess Diana, suffered after years of harassment and bullying by paparazzi and British tabloids. He said he worried his wife could meet the same fate.
Harry first talked about his fears about Meghan suffering as Diana did in 2019.
The ITV special Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, which aired in Oct. 2019, was supposed to document Harry and Meghan's royal tour of the continent, but instead morphed into a surprisingly revealing and emotional look into the couple's struggles with royal life. Speaking to reporter Tom Bradby, a longtime friend of Harry's, the prince invoked the death of his mother, saying, "I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum. Everything that she went through and what happened to her is incredibly raw every single day, and that is not me being paranoid. That is just me not wanting a repeat of the past."
When Bradby shared Harry's words with Meghan, telling her, "He's obviously very concerned about protecting you, and protecting you from what he felt his mother went through," a clearly emotional Meghan admitted she was struggling with the pressures of life in the royal fishbowl and the challenges of being a new mother, calling her experience "a very real thing."
JJ Chalmers, a close friend of Harry's who served with him in Afghanistan and attended his wedding, said protecting his family was the reason the prince fled England. In an interview with BBC's The One Show in Jan. 2020, after they stepped down, the veteran-turned-television presenter was asked if he believed protecting the family was the reason behind Harry and Meghan's decision. "I would say so. Any husband wants to protect their wife and any father wants to protect their children," Chalmers said. "Ultimately he grew up in the limelight and he knows how this can end if this isn't handled correctly."
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Insiders have questioned what role the media played in Harry and Meghan's decision to step back as senior royals.
Since their royal exit, critics have questioned how Harry and Meghan have used the media to tell their side of the story and build their brand after speaking of the press as a source of their strife in the U.K. "None of this has been about shielding themselves from the media," one source told Best Life. "It's about shielding themselves from media criticism. Yes, the British tabloids were cruel and often racist in their coverage, but if they were all writing glowing stories about the Sussex brand, it would have never have become an issue."
Another insider said, "In the beginning, eyebrows were raised when they launched their short-lived SussexRoyal website [which is still up, but now directs visitors to the Archewell site] at the same time they made their exit announcement on Instagram. People were sympathetic to their plight over media intrusion and their need for privacy, but now, in light of all that's been said recently, that feels more like an excuse than a reason for them to leave."
While insiders seem to believe that privacy was part of what the Sussexes were after, many say it's clear that was just a piece of the puzzle. "There was no question that at the beginning, both Harry and Meghan made it very clear their biggest issue they had with royal life was being under constant media scrutiny and that was what drove them out of England. Their desire for more privacy was widely reported," another insider told Best Life. "There was no talk of any grand plans of 'finding their voice,' so it's interesting to hear all of that set aside now. That does raise questions about what exactly was their reason for leaving. It now seems there was a very specific plan in mind and a lack of privacy might have been true, but it was also a cover for a whole host of other reasons for them wanting to move."