COMMENT:

Harry is living with the voices of two strong, influential women forever in his head, argues Telegraph columnist Celia Walden.

There is "no way back" for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex now. According to a Royal household source this week, the pair have "torpedoed" any chance of resuming official roles with the publication of Finding Freedom, a 368-page whingeathon that manages to upset the Queen, alienate every other member of both The Firm and the Palace, entrench the rift between Prince Harry and Prince William, and drain any dregs of public good feeling towards the couple in one fell swoop.

With that in mind, "it's hard to see how they can now salvage the new role they wanted as 'hybrid' royals", said the source. Hard, as in impossible.

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So there is no way back for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex - but there is a way back for Harry.

First, let's get any pretence that the royal renegades weren't involved in Finding Freedom out of the way. Just as Diana, Princess of Wales, always denied any involvement in Andrew Morton's biography - even lying about it to the Queen and Prince Philip, only to be revealed as Morton's primary source after her death - the couple have denied either sitting down with royal journalists Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, or asking their friends to. Which is understandable (the world was in a very different place when the book was cooked up), but embarrassing.

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrive at the annual Endeavour Fund Awards in London. Photo / AP
Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrive at the annual Endeavour Fund Awards in London. Photo / AP

After all, Finding Freedom contains intimate anecdotes that would only be known by those closest to them, from FaceTime conversations enjoyed in the bath and text messages exchanged between the couple, to details of the meal eaten by the Prince and the Queen when they met at Windsor for a final heart-to-heart.

And, of course, Meghan has form. Consider the five friends who spoke to People magazine for a cover story last year (without any agenda, consent or prodding on her part, it goes without saying) alongside this weekend's revelations that, as a jobbing actress in LA, the Suits star had a habit of tipping off the paparazzi so that they could get pictures and "let info slip out to the press".

But the real giveaway is the tone and language of the biography: a relentless drone of self-pity that occasionally rises up into a squeal shrill enough to make even Meghan and Harry wince, were they not so tone deaf, it's instantly recognisable as their voice. I say "their voice", but really it's Meghan's. And it calls to mind another woman's voice: a woman who had perfected the same "big eyes to camera", liked to think of herself as similarly Machiavellian with the media, and had far more genuine cause for complaint.

Harry is currently living with these two strong female voices in his head, his wife and his late mother. Two women who would probably have agreed on many things, from the horror of bitchy courtiers to the ease of life in California, where Diana was planning on moving to escape the scrutiny of the British press before she died. But also two women with grievances. And as hard as it to admit that any of our parents have failings - especially if we've lost them tragically early - the Prince needs to remember, firstly, that many of Diana's media machinations weren't ultimately successful, and secondly, that instead of making her happy and allowing her to find freedom outside of the family into which she married, they only kept her mired in her grievances until the end of her life, when she did finally seem to have let go.

Prince Harry, Prince William, Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge leave the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey. Photo / AP
Prince Harry, Prince William, Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge leave the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey. Photo / AP

As an attempt to get everyone on their side while exacting some nebulous form of revenge on The Firm, Finding Freedom is a woeful failure in a string of PR failures dating right back to the idea - Meghan's, again, no doubt - that forming a spin-off monarchy was the only way to maximise their "brand potential". A concept so repugnant, I feel sullied just typing the words out.

But although this is just another mistake in a litany of mistakes, it feels significant, final, in terms of what might henceforth be possible for the Sussexes as a couple in the UK. Because, as that royal source said yesterday, very little is now likely to be.

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Which leaves what? LA? A place that, as former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter told me last week, "is not for people who don't have a part in the professional firmament". And once the realisation of their own toxicity sinks in, what then? Then the in-fighting starts, the blame game.

Perhaps it won't. Perhaps these two will grow out of their rancour and grow old, in a Beverly Hills mansion so large there's a new bathroom to be discovered every month of the year. But if and when Harry manages to hear his own voice above the din of those two women in his head, he could do worse than to listen to it. There is a way back, and we would take him back, with only one question asked: "What were you thinking?"