A few years ago, whilst on holiday, I picked up a real ‘tat’ book by a former groupie named Peggy Trentini. It was a compulsive read, not for its literary merits, but for the use of hyperbolic language employed by the author in describing her many celebrity conquests. Almost every star she encountered was described as being, “an incredible
lover” and “big in all the right places.” It was absolutely hilarious. I recall reading some passages out aloud to my husband and chuckling away at such ludicrous prose. I could imagine that many stars must have been queuing up for a mention by Peggy, since her praise was so effusive and saccharinely sweet. I was reminded of the style of that book this week when I read the much hyped tome, Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand.
I learnt a great deal from this book about the humanitarian “trailblazer” that is Meghan, Duchess of Sussex; an immense force of nature, almost superhuman. For there is no doubt in this book about her mega power. She is the kindest, most intelligent, most stylish, most classy, most studious, most talented, most gracious, and most gifted woman ever to walk this earth, who also happens to have impressive packing / culinary / language skills and an indefatigable work ethic. She writes her own speeches; she has an immense philanthropic portfolio; she frequently sends out handwritten notes to thank people; she provides protein bites at meetings; the closest she comes to eating junk food is guacamole and crudités; her energy is boundless; her style is considered “fantastic” by no less than the editor in chief of Vogue, Anna Wintour. In fact, she is pretty much a new superhero for our times. Feminists praise her; the public “embrace” her. She is a force to be reckoned with. The other royals tremble at her popularity and skills at knowing more about the institution of monarchy than they do. Yet despite all of this, she never received the thanks and accolades she deserved within the Royal family; she did not even get her own office and was frequently side-lined by other royals, merely because one day Charles and William will inherit the Crown. How cruel! How dare the Royal Family not permit her to explain herself to the newspapers! How dare the Royal Family expect her to “shut up and put up!” To add to this humiliation, Meghan has been savaged by the British Press with treatment she compares to “death by a thousand cuts.” In taking Associated Newspapers to court, she considers that she is making a revolutionary stand for common decency.
Part of my job involves teaching students how to analyse language. Based upon my analysis of the literary devices and language used in the book, in my opinion, Harry and most specifically Meghan, collaborated with the writers. Justice Warby mentioned only last week during the case Meghan has issued against Associated Newspapers, her tendency to employ “hyperbolic assertions.” There is repeated use of Americanisms; extensive splitting of infinitives and the sheer amount of explanations which take on the tone of a petulant teenager rather than a public figure. Meghan’s son shares some of his mother’s excellence, for he is immensely advanced for his age; having teeth early; being able to crawl when only just out of the womb, and able to mimic animal sounds to rapturous applause. Within a day of establishing their social media presence on Instagram. Harry and Meghan had over two million followers; they are googled more than any other member of the Royal family. Even Meghan’s doctors are better and more trained than any other. It is as if Meghan sees her entire life as a competition against everyone, where she just has to be the best at everything. In essence this is just far too much a case of the lady doth protest (far) too much, methinks! It is no wonder that it is not long before this somewhat pontifical tone becomes overused and just downright boring. There are times it is rather reflective of a megalomaniac or even a comedic figure – think of Donald Trump or even Alan Partridge. Life is not about being the best at everything. No one likes a bragger. A little amount of humility would have been most welcome after all these oratorical phrases and examples.
The sullen teenage style is further demonstrated in the way in which every single incident that has been incorrectly reported in the press is explained and justified. Have you ever come across someone who knows they have done something wrong and then ends up further digging themself into an even bigger hole with an over-long explanation that lacks any credence? This is a device frequently used in the book to attempt to make the reader sympathise with poor old Meghan and Harry’s recent plight against the media and the institution of monarchy. However, as the book continues with its whining tone of woe is me, one fast loses patience.
The use of the phrase Finding Freedom is reminiscent of The Long Walk to Freedom autobiography of revolutionary, political leader and philanthropist Nelson Mandela, and it is clear that Meghan believes that there are similarities between her and the former South African President. She sees herself as an inspirational guru, single-handedly responsible for lecturing on equality concerning race and gender issues as well as climate-change and how we should live our lives. She loves to speak in clichés and phrases more akin to an inspirational Instagram post. Yet to me, I cannot see why she is suddenly such an expert in life. She has earned her position not through hard work and battling against many odds, but through marrying into royalty.
Of all the things the book does wrong, then perhaps its greatest fault is the lack of respect for the Royal Family and in particular the Queen, who one should never forget is also Harry’s grandmother. The Queen has devoted most of her life to duty. She became monarch much sooner than she expected when her father died at the relatively young age of fifty-six. At a time in her life when she had young children, she had to leave them behind to tour the Commonwealth. During her sixty-eight-year reign, the Queen has faced media attacks and criticism, but she rarely responds, preferring instead to maintain a dignified silence and in short, to rise above it. There are those who may say that she has an incredibly privileged life but, in all honesty, who would want to live in a claustrophobic goldfish bowl, having one’s every move watched and commented upon? Harry and Meghan have shown incredible disrespect for the Queen in this book not to mention Princes Charles and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Is it ever a good idea to air one’s dirty family laundry in public? Again, we return to the fact that this is little more than childish behaviour.
This book is certainly an interesting read. It may even make you laugh albeit at Meghan and Harry’s expense. I do believe that they would have gained far more sympathy concerning their plight had they adhered more to the maxim, never complain and never explain. Instead this book comes across as nothing less than a pile of self-indulgent moaning and foolishness. The benefit of maintaining a dignified silence is that issues swiftly go away. Most people do not need educating on how the truth can be distorted or manipulated to fit agendas and they already tend to view the content of certain newspapers with scepticism. The trouble in writing this book is that it will leave its bitter taste around for a long time thus making it more difficult for the couple to be free to live their private life in the way they so desire, devoid of criticism and sensationalism. For all the couple’s and specifically Meghan’s declarations of a superior intellect, this is one lesson they have yet to learn.