COMMENT:

Tick. Tick. Tick. Do you hear that? That's the sound of the clocking ticking down to the release of the release of the most hyped royal biography in years.

On Wednesday, Finding Freedom: Harry And Meghan And The Making Of A Modern Royal Family by royal reporters Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand will finally hit shelves.

For the last three months, since the title was announced in May, speculation has grown about the biography which promised to "reveal unknown details of Harry and Meghan's life together, dispelling the many rumours and misconceptions that plague the couple on both sides of the pond."

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Speculation grew, would Finding Freedom be in the same bombshell league as Andrew Morton's 1992 Diana: Her True Story which ripped the curtain back on Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales' miserable, crumbling marriage.

In late July, a selection of excerpts from Finding Freedom were published in The Times and the Sunday Times, giving the world our first glimpse of the book's much ballyhooed revelations.

So, as the countdown begins to Finding Freedom's debut, here's what we know, what we don't and the big questions that need to be answered.

DID HARRY AND MEGHAN SIT FOR INTERVIEWS?

Unequivocally, no.

Both Scobie and Durand and a spokesperson for the Sussexes have vigorously made the point that the Duke and Duchess were not interviewed.

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

According to the authors, they did speak to 100 sources including "close friends of Harry and Meghan's, royal aides and palace staff (past and present)" meaning that this is a very credible project. Adding to this is the fact that Harry and Meghan, according to their spokesperson back in May, were "relaxed" about the authors' access to those myriad friends and staffers.

However, here's the kicker: What we have seen of the book, so far, suggests that there are a lot of highly personal details in there.

After reading highly critical comments about himself and his wife online, Harry's "stomach tied into the same knot every time he saw these sorts of comments"; that after their first date he was in "was in a trance" while Meghan told a friend, "Do I sound crazy when I say this could have legs?"

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As The Times' royal correspondent Roya Nikkhah recently wrote, "However much the Sussexes distance themselves from the book, it reads like a ghostwritten autobiography."

OKAY, SO WHY IS THIS BOOK SUCH A BIG DEAL?

While Finding Freedom might not be an authorised or officially endorsed biography, the book is widely seen as a large scale attempt to rewrite the narrative around the Sussexes' rocky royal years.

Since 2018, Harry and Meghan have faced a tsunami of criticism, both from some quarters of the press and from some sections of the population.

Eight years ago, 75 per cent of Brits thought that Harry was an asset to the royal family – as of July, only 35 per cent of people feel the same way. (The same survey also found that 51 per cent of respondents thought that Meghan was a liability to the monarchy.)

And this is where Finding Freedom comes in. After two battering and bruising years, a highly compassionate account of what was going on behind the scenes (according to Scobie and Durand) could go far in terms of recasting events in a much more favourable light for the Sussexes and generating a huge amount of sympathy for them and their treatment.

The more conservative elements of the press in the UK have often depicted Meghan, as wilfully flouting convention, a yoga-loving virago with previous news stories have alleged was dubbed "Me-Gain" and "the Duchess of Difficult" by some inside the palace.

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Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrive at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Photo / AP
Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrive at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Photo / AP

Others have argued the truth is that Meghan, a professionally successful, bi-racial American woman, has had to contend with an inherently racist, sexist and xenophobic establishment since day one; that her otherness was always going to make her a target for the Machiavellian machinations of palace mandarins who were intent on undermining her.

The battle here is, were Harry and Meghan victims of a bigoted royal machine or tone deaf, ego-driven ingrates?

MARTINIS AND SPIKEYMAU5

How about a bit of a feel good love story before we wade into the messier stuff?

While details about Harry and Meghan's first date – a set up at Soho's Dean Street Townhouse – were known, Finding Freedom offers all of us incurable romantics some tantalising new insights into their romance.

The first night they met he drank beer, she had a martini and they ignored the proffered snacks. During the three-hour date, they were "in their own little world", discussing their "passion for wanting to make change for good". He knew they would be together while she was left "spellbound."

At the time Meghan's the Tig Instagram account had one million plus followers; after meeting Harry she had one more with the Prince having a secret account under the name of @SpikeyMau5.

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'HARRY'S SHOWGIRL'

Not everyone was in love with Meghan as Harry was. Per Freedom, one member of the family told an aide "She comes with a lot of baggage" while a different royal called her "Harry's showgirl".

Meanwhile, a "high ranking courtier" commented, "There's just something about her I don't trust."

'SNOB' WILLIAM AND 'COLD' KATE

The book claims that Prince William sat his brother down during the heady days of the romance to caution his brother, saying "Take as much time as you need to get to know this girl." Those last two words – "this girl" – are said to have sparked the brothers' rift with Harry thinking his brother's expression was both snobbish and condescending.

One of the royal's oldest friends, Tom Inskip, was "punished" after urging the smitten Prince to move in and live with Meghan before "before doing anything more serious".

Prince William, left, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, second left, Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, right, arrive to attend the Christmas day service at St Mary Magdalene Church. Photo / AP
Prince William, left, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, second left, Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, right, arrive to attend the Christmas day service at St Mary Magdalene Church. Photo / AP

While a source close to the couple is said to have told the authors the advice "came from a good place" and that Harry "didn't totally see it that way".

"It really hurt him that someone he was so close to would not trust his judgment," the source said. (The Telegraph has reported that the source spoke to the authors with the Sussexes' permission.)

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The book also puts the spotlight on the relationship between Kate and Meghan. While they were "not the best of friends" nor were they "at war with each other either … Meghan was disappointed that she and Kate hadn't bonded over the unique position they shared, but she wasn't losing sleep over it".

Kate, it is claimed, "did little to bridge the divide" and that while the Duchess of Cambridge sent her sister-in-law flowers for her birthday, "Meghan would far rather have had Kate check in on her during the most difficult times with the press."

THE 'VIPERS'

Once Harry and Meghan tied the knot and she joined the cadre of working HRHs, things got increasingly difficult for the couple.

According to the book, "A friend of the couple's referred to the old guard as 'the vipers'" while another friend of the couple is quoted saying: "There were just a handful of people working at the palace they could trust."

Elsewhere, Harry thought that the old guard "simply didn't like Meghan and would stop at nothing to make her life difficult".

BATTLE LINES

Scobie and Durand write that "increasingly Harry had grown frustrated that he and Meghan often took a back seat to other family members".

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Per Freedom: "As their popularity had grown, so did Harry and Meghan's difficulty in understanding why so few inside the palace were looking out for their interests.

"The Sussexes had made the monarchy more relatable to those who had never before felt a connection. However, there were concerns that the couple should be brought into the fold; otherwise, the establishment feared their popularity might eclipse that of the royal family."

Harry was criticised by those inside the palace for being "too sensitive and outspoken" while he is reported to have felt "unprotected" by his family.

HOW HAS THE ROYAL FAMILY REACTED – SO FAR?

Essentially with what amounts to a tweedy shrug of the shoulders.

The Telegraph has reported that on the weekend the extracts were serialised in the UK there were "several conference calls among advisers over the weekend, the Queen, Prince Charles and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (who) are understood to have barely registered a reaction to the much-hyped book … apparently viewing the already familiar 'revelations' as yesterday's news."

The same report quoted a source close to Prince William as saying that he was "exhausted" rather than angry.

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THE BIG, UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

The biggest question is, does Finding Freedom contain some, so far secret, grand revelation (or revelations) which profoundly shifts the way the world views the royal family or the Sussexes, as Morton's book did? (With Diana, he swiftly and dramatically altered the public perception of, and approval for, the Queen and Prince Charles.)

So, will Finding Freedom go down in the history books as an equally consequential biography? Will this book land with a bang or more of a whimper?

The big problem for Meghan and Harry could be if it further damages their already fraying public image.

For the meantime we will all just have to play the waiting game.

Tick. Tick. Tick …

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years working for a number of Australia's leading media titles.

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