The book’s two authors have had a fruitful relationship with Meghan and Harry, and have already gotten exclusive access to some of their events. Scobie, who writes for Harper’s Bazaar and is a Good Morning America correspondent, has covered Meghan for years, and was one of two journalists granted exclusive access to Meghan’s last private event as a member of the royal family in March. Durand, a contributor to Elle, attended Meghan’s private event at a London school. According to the Mail on Sunday, Meghan and Harry sat for interviews with Durand and Scobie before they announced their exit in January.
The book was reportedly set to come out in June, but its release date has been pushed to August due to the coronavirus crisis. Dey Street Books, the publisher who released Jessica Simpson’s Open Book earlier this year, hasn’t confirmed the release yet, but their website does feature a cryptic page advertising a book by the authors “Eibocs” and “Dnarud”—Scobie and Durand backwards—with a release date of August 11.
According to a source with knowledge of the deal, the book will cover the period from Meghan and Harry’s introduction to their royal exit in March, including details about her deteriorating relationship with the Markle family. It will approach those years from the perspective of the couple and cast Meghan in a more flattering light than many tabloid stories have.
Their cooperation tracks with some of their motivations from stepping back from the royal family earlier this year. In January, they released statements complaining about the royal rota system, which didn’t always allow them to choose the journalists they worked with. In a documentary last fall, Meghan said she hadn’t been able to develop a “stiff upper lip” and expressed frustration at her inability to rebut stories that she saw as unfair.
While this approach to a royal biography is far from the conventional process for the Buckingham Palace press team, it has precedent. In 1992, Queen Elizabeth was already in the middle of what she would later call her “annus horribilis” when much of her family’s dirty laundry found its way to the public in the form of a tell-all book. Princess Diana had cooperated with Andrew Morton, a tabloid veteran, on Diana: Her True Story, which documented her difficult days in the palace and the affair between Prince Charles and his future wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles.
While the bombshell announcements of the book fueled its status as a bestseller, a more subtle angle of Morton’s story resonates more than two decades after Diana’s death. The book painted a picture of a woman who had suffered personally but was motivated by concern for how her in-laws were adapting to the modern era. “She finds the monarchy claustrophobic and completely outdated with no relevance to today’s life and problems,” a friend of hers told Morton. “She feels that it is a crumbling institution and believes that the family won’t know what has hit it in a few years’ time unless it changes too.”
At a moment when Diana was attempting to negotiate her own exit from the family, the book’s publication strained her already rocky relationship with the Queen. But it also endeared her to an international audience and helped her maintain popularity despite the messiness of a royal divorce. When Vanity Fair wrote about the fallout after the book’s publication in February 1993, the story was called “Diana’s Revenge.”
Meghan and Harry’s choice to go public doesn’t seem to have as much to do with their feelings about the family’s state of affairs. When they stepped back as senior royals, Meghan and Harry were hoping they could find a more progressive role within the family, but were only able to achieve that by leaving their roles behind entirely. Participating in a book might be the most forceful way they are able to make that change without deliberately agitating their relatives.
In charting their careers outside of the royal family, the couple have reportedly taken pains to stay on the monarchy’s good side. There’s no reason to believe that Thoroughly Modern Royals will drop any information that will leave the queen fuming, though there’s a chance that their choice could backfire. But by working with Durand and Scobie, two British journalists who write for American outlets, they’re making a point about who this book is aimed at. Meghan and Harry don’t seem to be trying to set the house on fire—just looking for an opportunity to get a few things off their chests.