Ok, we are officially in the spring of 2016. I may slow these down a bit as we move through the rest of the book – as of writing this on Thursday, I made it through Chapter 22 last night and there are a few bits that I think I’ll want to zoom in on. So, just a heads up.
According to Bower, here is the gist of what was going on with Meghan as she went into her first meeting with Harry:
- Markus Anderson from SoHo House facilitated an introduction between Meghan and Princess Eugenie prior to June 2016, indicating that it was Eugenie, not Harry, who proved the first Windsor she officially met. Very little detail is provided on the context for their “meeting” or whether there was any follow up. All that Bower says is that Eugenie was “type who could help [Meghan].”
- Before leaving for Europe, Meghan broached ending things with Cory Vitiello. He was apparently “relieved.”
- Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne, who had been working with Meghan in an agent/celebrity management capacity around her speaking engagements, etc., arranged for her to say in London’s Carlton Tower. Upon arrival, Meghan saw there was a parrot in the lobby and refused to stay there. A quote from a “colleague” (unclear whose) is: “Meghan went completely ballistic. It was really unpleasant.”
- Meghan met with a literary agent, Adrian Sington, to discuss a potential book based on The Tig. According to Sington, he was already wary because Meghan had a reputation within his company for being rude and high-maintenance – she had reportedly made one of his young, female colleagues cry. Over the course of their conversation, Sington said she was extremely rude regarding a proposed book chapter called, “How to be a better woman,” which would provide tips for women on how to be more attractive. Meghan took issue with the content, which Sington claimed was based on articles from The Tig. He reported back to Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne that Meghan was “one of the most unpleasant people we’ve ever dealt with.”
- From London, Meghan moved to Hydra, Greece for a bachelorette/hen party. Misha Nonoo was there. According to someone present, Harry and his less-than-stellar reputation with women came up in conversation, but it’s unclear from whom or whether Meghan partook.
- Back in London, Meghan attended Wimbledon with Ralph Lauren’s publicist, Violet von Westenhoz, based on arrangement she’d procured to showcase RL designs while attending the matches. According to Bower, Meghan asked Violet to facilitate a meeting with Harry, her childhood friend. Violet reached out to Harry and shared photos of Meghan. He agreed to a blind date.
- On the day of, Meghan met with Gina and told her about the date. Gina asked if Meghan knew anything about Harry and she answered, “I’ve googled Harry. I’ve gone deeply into his life.”
From there, the narrative pauses to catch us up on Harry. The overarching theme is that William and Harry were deeply wounded by the magnitude of their parents’ divorce, Diana’s death, and that in the aftermath, Charles seemed more focused on his work and securing his relationship with Camilla. In other words, Harry could have benefited from more hands-on parenting during his adolescence than with which he was provided. That is likely more or less true.
In early 2002, when Harry was 17 and William was already at University, News of the World journalists, courtesy of illegal phone tapping, became aware of drug use at parties hosted and attended by the boys. The story – one also put forth by other recent royal biographers – is that Clarence House struck a deal that kept William out of the fray because he was the future king and positioned Charles as having intervened with Harry directly – basically a “good dad” message. So, Harry was the fall-guy. Tina Brown got much more into this incident in her book, so I may put a pin in this anecdote for a separate post.
The takeaway for our purposes today, is that it’s moments like this that have reportedly fed into Harry’s growing resentment towards his family.
Bower also alleges that it’s a possibility that Diana was unfaithful to Charles in 1983, dangling out there in the ether that Harry may not be Charles’s son. In my opinion, this point is so ridiculous that it borderline undermines other aspects of the book. Bower is hardly the first to claim Diana had an affair (or affairs) in the early 1980s, but I think Harry’s paternity is pretty well-proven by photos of him side-by-side his grandfather, Prince Philip, in his youth, if nothing else. As for Diana, I am of the belief that her first affair was with Barry Mannakee in 1985.
Then there is further fodder about Harry’s early 20s – partying, “society blondes,” and general restlessness. His long-term girlfriend, Chelsy Davy, is summed up with, “Both were party animals enjoying drugs, drinking, and sex.” Frankly I think that’s pretty dismissive of a seven-year relationship (albeit one that was a bit on-and-off in the last couple years) with a woman who also managed to get a law degree in the midst of it. I have a lot of respect for how Chelsy handled their relationship and its aftermath, particularly given how young she was.
William, on the other hand, is described as having avoided a lot of these problems for two reasons: 1) the Queen took a more direct interest in him during his adolescence because of his position and 2) he met Kate at University and she and the Middleton Family provided a much-needed safe haven.
Harry’s 2012-2014 relationship with Cressida Bonas is given a brief mention, with Bower closing the book on Cressida and Chelsy as such: “Both women, like others Harry met, discovered that he lacked class, was unromantic, unserious, short-tempered and imperious. Throughout their relationship, he had behaved without generosity.”
Tina Brown covered Harry’s relationship with Cressida in more detail, too, so I may need to add a Justice For Cressida & Chelsy blog post to my to-do list. What I will say is that based on how Bower writes, I get the sense that while he didn’t speak to Cressida and Chelsy, he may well have spoken to women Harry had short-lived “flings” with during these years and/or other people in their broader social set. I will also note that back in 2014 there was a credible story out there that part of what ended Harry’s relationship with Cressida was his refusal to pay for her plane ticket to a social event he invited her to, despite him having a generous allowance and her not being in the same financial situation in her early 20s (despite a wealthy family background). So, rude and ungenerous may not be wholly unfair.
Switching back to mid-2016, and the recap of the beginning of Harry and Meghan’s relationship is that it moved quickly. After a handful of meetings in London, Harry joined Meghan in Toronto two weeks later, staying for a week in the home of one of Meghan’s friends (Bower believes it may have been Jessica Mulroney).
“Since she had carefully researched Harry’s life, Meghan knew exactly how to make him feel loved and appreciated. So long as she looked at him with intense affection and trust, she would not trigger his insecurity or paranoia. To reassure him that he was admired for himself she would tell him what he wanted to hear, especially about the importance of his ambitions and principles. Free of fear and suspicion, Harry succumbed to a person who offered much more than affection.”
Bower also writes that despite Harry asking Meghan to be discreet, she told two close girlfriends (one of which may have been Jessica Mulroney is Harry was staying with her) and her father about the relationship.
And then there’s this: Bower claims that it was only after Harry departed from Toronto that Meghan formally told Cory their relationship was over. There’s been discrepancy over when their relationship ended, with Meghan stating that it was in May (prior to going to London) and others claiming no, it wasn’t until July (post-first dates with Harry). Only at that point, per Bower, did Cory move out of Meghan’s house, with Meghan getting rid of all evidence of their relationship before Harry’s next visit to Toronto.
My best guess? They broke up in May, but were still in a bit of a “break” scenario until Meghan returned to Toronto. Or, he hadn’t moved out yet, hence Meghan arranging for Harry to stay elsewhere. In my opinion, this feels like too many logistical details to be completely fabricated. At the very least, based on my belief that Cory spoke to Bower, this is his version of events. Whether Meghan was on the same page, presumably only Meghan knows.
Late in August, Meghan was back in London. She met up with Gina for lunch. Upon realizing how quickly Harry and Meghan were moving, Gina says to her, “Have you any idea what you’re doing? Do you realize you won’t be able to make any more movies? Royal duties will be you life.”
According to Gina, Meghan responded, “Gina, save it. Stop. Be quiet. I don’t want to hear any negativity. This is a happy time for us.”
Per Bower, “Stopped in her tracks, Nelthorpe-Cowne looked at the hard fury in Meghan’s eyes. At that stage, she failed to grasp the full significance of the moment. Meghan’s plan was working. Harry was within her web.”
They reportedly didn’t meet again for another month, following Meghan’s first trip to Botswana with Harry where the seriousness of their relationship intensified even further. Gina tells Bower that she could feel “their intimacy suddenly evaporate.”
At the end of September, Meghan was in Ottawa for a speaking engagement arranged by Gina. Bower writes:
“Megan was seated with the chosen ‘leaders’ [for an upcoming Vanity Fair spread also arranged by Gina] in a minibus outside the conference centre waiting to be driven to the photoshoot. Seeing Meghan through the open door, a young female reporter asked her a benign question. ‘Talk to my agent,’ snapped Meghan. ‘Gina, just sort this out.’ […] ‘She was only a feminist when it suited her,’ concluded Nelthorpe-Cowne.”
Later at the same event, Meghan departed before her scheduled speech, refusing to speak. Meghan told Gina to “sort it.” In the middle of their disagreement, a young woman interrupted the conversation and Meghan apparently said, “Don’t these people have manners? She didn’t even greet me.” Gina ended up in tears.
I have two takeaways from this portion of the book: If in fact Meghan deeply researched Harry, then motivation is what matters. It’s hardly groundbreaking to Google dates, and given who Harry is, it would be human nature for curiosity to take over at some point. What makes it weird is to then lie about it so emphatically and proactively with the public. I don’t know that anyone would think she was gold digger/title hunter if she had merely said she knew a little bit, but tried to focus on learning about him from him, etc. and so forth. But to repeatedly make part of her narrative that she was completely in the dark and never looked in at any point over the course of their relationship is less-than-believable and frankly a bit strange, if true. Ignorance is not your friend in this particular scenario.
As for Meghan’s motivation in researching Harry, if true, well, only she knows what that was. I will only say that there is room for Meghan being dishonest about reading up on him, while also still having genuinely fallen in love.
My second takeaway is that while I understand comparisons between Meghan and Kate are unhelpful, in this case there is a stark difference worth highlighting. The sheer volume of people who are willing to come out of woodwork to bash Meghan is telling – not only in this book, but also in the media over the years (because not all of these names and stories are new). There are no similar stories about Kate from prior to her marriage, nor are there stories like this that have leaked post-royal wedding. Anticipating pushback on this point, yes, Kate is likely better protected by Palace staff from a press perspective…but to argue that point is to also ignore that the thousands upon thousands of negative articles about Charles, Camilla, Diana and even William over the years.
In some respects, that comparison is unfair due to how young Kate was when she began her relationship with William. In other words, Meghan had a lengthy career and multiple former relationships so there’s more “meat” to her past than Kate’s. But honestly, even at 20 it’s pretty telling that no one’s come forth with “mean girl” stories, and it’s even more telling that we haven’t received leaks of “bad behavior” stories since her marriage.
Now, there’s a good bit in this book – and the broader media – that I’ve taken issue with and defended Meghan on. I do think some of these criticisms are unfair are too one-sided to be taken at face-value. But there’s a steady drumbeat of people from her life – professional and personal – who have insinuated or bluntly stated that she’s rude, unkind, and manipulative, and in my opinion, it’s too consistent to dismiss completely.
With that, we’ll pick up with more next time.