Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, has had many incarnations. There was Kate the Uni Girlfriend, who confidently strode down a university catwalk in her knickers, snaring the, ah, attention (let's just say) of a future king.

Then there was Waity Katey, the girl who seemed to spend her days trying to evade the paparazzi as they stalked the smart streets of Chelsea while patiently and pliantly waiting for William to get down on bended knee.

There was Mustique Kate who managed to log a dizzying number of holidays to places like the Caribbean and the ski slopes of Switzerland, nary a professional thought, so the tabloid narrative went, in her very pretty head.


Come 2011, we got Kate the Bride who somehow in the 100 odd metres of the Westminster Abbey aisle metamorphosed from jolly hockey sticks Sloane into regal future Queen.

And now, in 2020, we have a new Kate: Kate the Baddie. Or at least Kate the Feminist Failure. That is, at least, according to Finding Freedom, a new biography of Harry and Meghan the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, that was released on Wednesday.

Finding Freedom doubles down on Kate not being welcoming to Meghan. Photo / Getty Images
Finding Freedom doubles down on Kate not being welcoming to Meghan. Photo / Getty Images

After years of press criticism, PR controversies and alleged internecine palace warfare, here would be a book that offered, drum roll please, to "(dispel) the many rumours and misconceptions that plague the couple".

After an insufferable few months of waiting, finally the much plugged telling of how the Sussexes went from being the royal family's greatest hope to being holed up in a billionaire's Los Angeles mansion, lobbing lawsuits and fending off drones has hit the shelves.

While many of the "revelations" featured in the book – such as Harry being impressed that Meghan would pee in the woods to her finding his penchant for emojis charming – make it less it bombshell and more tooth-achingly saccharine fizzer.

However, one of the most interesting aspects of the book is the introduction of Kate the S****y Sister-In-Law. While William is labelled "a snob" for telling Harry "take as much time as you need to get to know this girl", it is Kate who is the person who comes closest to occupying baddie status.

According to the authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand: "Meghan was disappointed that she and Kate hadn't bonded over the position they shared, but she wasn't losing sleep over it. According to a source, Kate felt they didn't have much in common 'other than the fact that they lived at Kensington Palace.'"

Elsewhere, Scobie and Durand write, "Though not necessarily her responsibility, Kate did little to bridge the divide."

The new book paints Kate as being unwelcoming to Meghan. Photo / Getty Images
The new book paints Kate as being unwelcoming to Meghan. Photo / Getty Images

By the time of Harry and Meghan's May 2018 wedding, the two women "had spent only a handful of occasions together".

"Their relationship hadn't progressed much since she was Harry's girlfriend. Although Meghan might have understood Kate's wariness to strike up a meaningful friendship at that point, she was now a fellow senior working member of the royal family and the wife of William's brother — and still they were no closer.

"Flowers for her birthday were nice, but Meghan would far rather have had Kate check in on her during the most difficult times with the press."


(Also, Kate, get this, went shopping and did not offer Meghan a lift.)

Come March this year, both couples attended the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey which also happened to be the Sussexes' final engagement as senior members of the royal family.


"While Harry and Meghan both greeted William and Kate with smiles, the Cambridges showed little response," Freedom reports. "'Harry, William nodded, ignoring Meghan. For the minutes that followed before the Queen's arrival, William and Kate continued to sit with their backs to the couple, only turning around to chat with Edward and Sophie, who sat behind them, next to the Sussexes.

"Although Meghan tried to make eye contact with Kate, the Duchess barely acknowledged her."

("To purposefully snub your sister-in-law … I don't think it left a great taste in the couple's mouths," Scobie told The Times.)

But … does Kate the Ice Queen trope really stand up in light of other details?

Finding Freedom reports that after the two royal WAGs met for the first time: "The meeting ended with Kate letting Meghan know that she was always welcome to contact her if she needed anything.

"Having been through the experience of being a royal girlfriend herself, Kate knew how trying it could be to suddenly have one's personal life laid bare."


During the period of time covered in the book, the Cambridges hosted the Sussexes at their Norfolk home over Christmas 2017 during which, the Daily Mail has reported, Kate cooked "vegan meals" for her future sister-in-law. (Why, given Meghan is not vegan, will just have to remain a tantalising mystery.)

Scobie and Durand claim Kate and William snubbed Meghan at Westminster Abbey during the Sussexes' last engagement as royals. Photo / AP
Scobie and Durand claim Kate and William snubbed Meghan at Westminster Abbey during the Sussexes' last engagement as royals. Photo / AP

Kate also sent Meghan flowers, a source told Vanity Fair, to "rectify the situation" however "Meghan … told Kate in no uncertain terms that flowers were not enough."

Clearly pricey blooms didn't make up for what seems to have been perceived as a lack of hand-holding and rope-showing.

In short, the future Queen has been judged and found wanting in terms of her obligation to the sisterhood.

Yes, Kate definitely could have been warmer but as a shy woman who very, very closely guards her privacy, is it that hard to understand why she wasn't keen to conspiratorially gab over a bottle of vino with Meghan, sharing tips on how to avoid the dorgis and wrangle the best jewels out of Gan-Gan from day one?

Is Kate's alleged failure to personally induct Meghan into the surreal, regimented and inscrutable world of royalty that much of a transgression that she deserves to have perhaps the biggest target in the book slapped on her back?

The new book Finding Freedom paints Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, as the royal baddie. Photo / Getty Images
The new book Finding Freedom paints Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, as the royal baddie. Photo / Getty Images

To be clear: Harry and Meghan did not sit down for interviews with the book's Scobie and Carolyn however the authors have said they did speak to 100 sources including "close friends of Harry and Meghan's, royal aides and palace staff (past and present)." But … given the Sussexes' stance on maintaining their privacy it is tough to believe that anyone inside their inner circle would speak to a reporter without their blessing.

What is particularly marked about Finding Freedom is that while others' mistakes are hauled out for us, the couple's own missteps are largely glossed over.

After Meghan's celebrity-stuffed baby shower in New York, replete with a harpist and food cooked by a Michelin-starred chef, we are told that while, according to a senior aide, "the optics of the somewhat flashy shower did not go down well with certain individuals at the palace … sometimes in this role you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. "Ultimately, the trip was just Meghan's friends celebrating a really exciting moment in her life."

This reads like something of a cop out. I fail to see how Meghan would have been "damned if she didn't" pop over to New York to take a flower-arranging class in a hotel penthouse while enjoying a Laduree macaron tower.

Then we come, or rather don't come, to the brouhaha over Archie's christening, the fact the Queen was not there due to a "diary clash" and the Sussexes' refusal to name his godparents, all of which fail to get a mention. (Though Scobie and Durand do name Meghan's friend Izzy May as one of the anointed few.)

So too does Meghan's headline-grabbing trip to Wimbledon where she was surrounded by a sea of empty seats, and during which her security officers warned spectators against taking photos of her, fails to get a mention.


And that $4 million-plus that was spent on doing up Frogmore Cottage for them to live in? The "price tag for the structural renovations was covered by the Sovereign Grant, the allowance provided annually by the Government to support the Queen in her official duties and cover the family's travel, palace upkeep, and royal employee payroll, the couple paid for the interior work themselves," we are primly told.

Right, well that will clearly assuage the peeved British public over the couple's expensive reno – cough.

What is interesting is that there are no spirited defences of these contentious situations and no nuance is added to our collective understanding of these moments, rather there is just a very curious silence as Freedom might be able to manifest some sort of collective forgetting.

However, the biggest problem with this entire sympathy-raising project is the marked absence of self-reflection.

Harry, we are told, admitted it was a "mistake" to take a private jet home from Google Camp in early August, ignoring their then communications secretary Sara Latham's warnings it would cause a "media storm." However, the couple then went on to take four more private jets that same month alone to go on two luxe holidays.

The new book fails to explain whether Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, have learned from their own missteps. Photo / AP
The new book fails to explain whether Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, have learned from their own missteps. Photo / AP

Aside from this instance, throughout the book's 300-odd pages, on the couple sails, largely untroubled by any significant moment of introspection about their more controversial, wave-making choices and actions.


While friends and family members on both sides, the press and online commenters all come in for fair criticism here, the book's blind spot is that Harry and Meghan are largely portrayed as saintly figures. Essentially, Finding Freedom is less biography than hagiography stuffed with already reported stories and the occasional bit of insight.

And this is what sticks in the craw: While those in Harry and Meghan's orbit are judged, they seem unwilling, based on what these 100 intimates have told Scobie and Durand, anyway, to apply anywhere near the same level of scrutiny to their own actions and decisions.

Here's the thing: Learning something – anything – from a bungled moment or miscalculation here and there would not undermine their entirely legitimate grievances and frustrations. Rather constantly painting them as nearly persistently being in the right just makes them look blinkered.

This is hugely frustrating because, despite their gaffes and their snafus, it is impossible to read Freedom and not feel for Harry and Meghan. They are clearly wildly in love and devoted to one another in a truly moving way. They have clearly been mauled by elements of the press over the years and the royal family clearly could have done much, much more to help and protect them.

And what of Kate, whose flowers were "not enough"? Yes, Kate should have "checked in" on Meghan given the mauling she endured but did Meghan ever check in on Kate, especially when she was pregnant with Prince Louis and suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum? (If so, we are never told.)

The sisterhood, like phones, work both ways.


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