On this day in May 2018, it seemed like nothing could derail the Harry and Meghan fairy tale.
The weather had obeyed and the crowds had come out.
A few of us were given the green light to poke our heads into the church about an hour before the first guests arrived.
The scent of sweet peas and white roses, jasmine and peonies lingered on my nose for the rest of the day.
Britain had gone through a torrid period: terrorist attacks, controversial vote on Brexit, elections without failure.
The marriage was truly celebrated.
But the honeymoon of the divorced American actress and the prince was cut short by the harsh realities of royal life.
The insider account
Now, a new book called Finding Freedom offers a detailed look at what happened behind the scenes.
It’s written by journalists Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand – both of whom I knew when I was an ABC correspondent in the UK – and they say they looked for at least two sources for every story they were telling.
Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, released a statement insisting they had not been interviewed for the book. But none of their friends would have spoken to the authors without the couple’s approval.
This isn’t a rag of trashy gossip about the young couple. Read these chapters and imagine that it is Harry and Meghan speaking the words.
He is sympathetic to them and reveals the mistrust that was already lurking behind the scenes that day.
I have now read the book, available in Australia from today, and spoken with Scobie about its contents. Here are seven things I learned.
1. Why was the book written?
There is no end to the words that have been written about Harry and Meghan, which begs the question: why go back to history?
For Scobie, it was a simple case that there was more to say.
“For a long time we’ve really been used to seeing the narrative around the Sussexes unfold through various anonymous royal sources, palace courtiers, senior aides in various British tabloids,” he told me.
“We very rarely hear from those around the couple themselves.
“I felt there was a lot more to this story than what we had actually heard.”
2. Kate and Meghan are not best friends
Some believed Meghan and the Duchess of Cambridge would become close.
After all, the two were strangers and if there was anyone who would know what Meghan was going through, it would be Kate.
Still, the two women only hung out a few times before the wedding, despite both living in Kensington Palace.
On one occasion, they met while leaving the palace grounds for the same shopping street, but there was no offer for them to go together.
There was no feud though, Scobie said.
“She is (Kate) a woman very focused on her own family and her duties within the monarchy, and sadly busy lives and priorities elsewhere have meant that the friendship between her and Meghan never really gets off the ground. could flourish. “
3. Meghan was not a “difficult Duchess”
The resignation of one of Meghan’s assistants in 2018 sparked a flood of tabloid stories about her inability to work.
It was part of a growing narrative that Fleet Street was chasing that Meghan was a “Difficult Duchess”.
Yet the authors of Finding Freedom discovered that this was not a “resignation” at all.
“There was a much deeper story and the couple had long been unhappy with [the assistant] until the moment she’s gone, ”Scobie said.
However, sources said Harry and Meghan could be “impatient and impulsive” – so were they their worst enemies?
“They were a couple getting results, so they really needed people around them who exploited and embraced the speed they were working with,” said Scobie.
“And so there were times when they often came second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth to other royals.”
4. The silence of the palace overwhelmed them
Finding Freedom explains how Harry and Meghan couldn’t understand why no one was disputing the deceptive and malicious tabloid stories that circulated endlessly.
“They just needed a few people in their corner to defend them,” Scobie said.
“They had seen the palace rush to defend William and Kate, but when it came to the Sussexes they were often left alone and in pain.
“It was times like this that made them wonder where people’s allegiances lay. Were they on the Sussex side or were they watching their own and the others in the institution?”
5. There were also hostile insiders
The book suggested that a senior royal was calling Meghan “Harry’s showgirl” and some royal staff were suspicious of her.
“There is just something about her that I don’t trust,” a royal courtier reportedly said.
Scobie said Meghan is always going to ruffle the feathers.
“Meghan has, in many ways, ticked the right boxes when it comes to her life’s accomplishments,” he said.
“She was an accomplished philanthropist, a seasoned actress. She had seen the world and done a lot of things before entering Windsor House.
“And of course, she was different from the rest.”
6. They’re gone for good
Earlier this year, Harry and Meghan shocked the world by announcing that they were stepping down as senior members of the royal family.
They planned to pursue their own goals, become financially independent and split their time between the UK and North America.
Scobie discovered that they are not only happy in Los Angeles, they are thriving.
And despite having 12 months to decide if they want to join the fold, it’s highly unlikely.
“They have a safe home environment, they can focus on the job they want to do,” he said.
“There have been very few leaks about their personal lives or the work they do, and that’s because they have a team around them that they think they can trust.
“The idea of looking back and re-entering the monarchy in any way just wouldn’t appeal to them.”
7. But they want to fix
The couple want to improve family relationships with The Firm, and rebuilding those strained ties is important to them, Scobie discovered.
Harry and Meghan have been in contact with Prince Charles and the Queen, he said, and “there are signs of hope, but maybe not in a capacity for work”.
However, things are different with William.
Scobie said Harry was offended by William’s advice when he started dating Meghan, particularly the phrase: “Take as much time as you need to get to know this girl. “
“Harry ended up getting some advice he maybe didn’t ask for,” Scobie said.
“We have to remember that these are two men in their thirties and it’s not some kind of dynamic big brother, little brother anymore.
“And that’s something I think William never really got used to and Harry always wanted to change.”
And this is where we come to the saddest conclusion to the book.
Finding freedom is revealing of what he reveals about Harry and William and the deterioration of their relationship.
They were always different, one destined to be king, the other struggling to find his own way.
Harry and Meghan can be a lot of things, but they’re not naïve.
They know this book will not mend the already strained relationship with the Royal Family. But it gives them a voice.
I can’t help but think of author Andrew Morton, who revealed after Princess Diana’s death that she was, in fact, the source of his biography.
She remained insistent that she had not participated in the book. Audio cassettes have proven otherwise.
Scobie insists this is not history repeating itself.
Yet decades later, Finding Freedom is Harry and Meghan’s story. If it is not said by them, at least for them.