In the wake of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, media reports have been full of a slew of details from behind the scenes as three new books about the British royal family arrive in short succession.
Many of the supposed revelations revolve around the family’s relationship with the duke and duchess of Sussex, aka Prince Harry and Meghan, and its apparent breakdown. Here are some of the key revelations and allegations — many of which come from “anonymous sources” working within the Windsor household.
Meghan thought she would be ‘the Beyoncé of the UK’
Valentine Low’s book Courtiers: The Hidden Power Behind the Crown quotes a “palace insider” as saying: “I think Meghan thought she was going to be the Beyoncé of the UK. Being part of the royal family would give her that kudos.”
Given that Markle was a TV star before she met Harry, it is unclear from the book’s extract if this is a suggestion Markle would have made herself. The “palace insider” goes on to observe: “I think in Meghan and the [royal] household, you had two worlds that had no experience of each other, had no way to relate to each other, had no way to comprehend each other.”
An anonymous source apparently told the book’s author that the duchess of Sussex was overheard complaining “I can’t believe I don’t get paid for this” while out doing a royal meet-and-greet engagement, as if it were some kind of fan convention.
William and Harry’s fears of being overshadowed
Another claim about the rift between the Sussexes and the then Cambridges — which is to say William and Catherine, now the prince and princess of Wales — is that Meghan’s initial ease and rapport with the British public came as a “wake-up” call to William and Kate that they could be outshone in the next generation of royals while William waited to succeed to the throne.
Katie Nicholl’s book The New Royals: Queen Elizabeth’s Legacy and the Future of the Crown, suggests that on their first joint public engagement “Meghan was the breakout star of the foursome. She was polished, passionate and funny, using all her TV-honed skills to present her case”. A source tells Nicholl that the then Cambridges felt they were being forced to “up their game”.
Also fearing being overshadowed was Prince Harry himself, at least according to Low’s book. An anonymous source claims that Harry felt he would become an also-ran once Prince George turned 18.
Tensions between the Sussexes and Queen Elizabeth over wedding dresses and children
The eulogies in Britain for the queen often spoke of her discretion and caution in expressing opinions in public. That was not always the case in private, at least according to the new books. Nicholl suggests that the queen was surprised that Markle, who was divorced, wore pure white at her wedding. There was also allegedly a contretemps that led to Harry being summoned by the queen for a dressing-down after a row about arrangements for Meghan to try on the queen’s tiara before their big day. Another element that had upset the late monarch was that the move of Harry and Meghan to the US had limited her opportunities to see her great-grandchildren Archie and Lilibet.
Angela Levin is a third author with a new book pegged to the royal family. In Camilla: From Outcast to Queen Consort she argues that Meghan rebuffed attempts by the new queen consort to befriend her. Levin says Camilla had tried to arrange a warm welcome into the family, quoting a source saying that Camilla “doesn’t want to see anyone struggling, and she is fond of Meghan” but that the attempt “fell flat”.
The duke of York lobbied against Camilla and Charles’s marrying
Camilla might not have ended up queen consort at all if someone else had had their way. Prince Andrew, a man whose own judgment is often questioned, is said to have tried to persuade the queen to block any future marriage between the then Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. Levin’s book claims that Andrew, who, following his friendship with the convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, settled a civil case for sexual assault out of court in February 2022, told his mother that Camilla was “insufficiently aristocratic” and “not to be trusted”. Levin also says that Camilla found Princess Anne’s initially “frosty demeanour” difficult after marrying Charles but that the princess royal’s attitude had mellowed over time.
King Charles is easily led by outside advisers and has a temper
King Charles, whose habit of writing “black spider memos” to UK government ministers led to the Guardian newspaper fighting a 10-year battle to get them released into the public domain, is described in Low’s book as having “a fierce temper and a ferocious work ethic”. The public may have caught a glimpse of this with the new king’s troubled relationship with pens during recent appearances.
Low alleges the King was “not always a good judge of who should have his ear”, with a source telling the author that he “loves it when someone says, ‘Oh, they have got it wrong, sir, listen to me. I can see it better; I am outside of this.’ [He] falls under people’s spell.”
... and Harry’s book is yet to come
One keenly anticipated but as yet unreleased book that has been making headlines without anybody seeing a word is the forthcoming memoir by Prince Harry himself.
The media in recent days has been full of speculation that, fresh from the public rapprochement with the new prince and princess of Wales and their joint walkabout at Windsor Castle — described as the first time the foursome had been seen in public together since March 2020 — Harry has been desperately trying to make amendments. Expect more headlines to come about a book generally described by media commentators as “explosive”. If you haven’t got time or the inclination to read all the books, you can always just wait for November and series five of The Crown, on Netflix. — Guardian