March 23, 2018 8:53 pm
Prince Harry and his fiancé Meghan photographed at an event in Belfast on March 23rd.
By Niall Carson/Pool/Getty Images.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will get married on May 19. Since they announced their engagement last November, it has become the most highly anticipated royal event of the year. For her third book about the royal family, Vanity Fair contributor Katie Nicholl has published Harry: Life, Loss, and Love, a look at everything that led up to this major event in the beloved Harry’s life. She spoke to Vanity Fair about why it’s the right time for a book on Princess Diana’s second born.
Vanity Fair: What made you want to focus on Harry for the third book in your royal trilogy?
Katie Nicholl: I was looking at this young man, and looking at this incredible renaissance that he’s in, and seeing this relationship with Meghan going from strength to strength. I just thought it was the right time to do an in-depth book on him—and of course, I’m not the first person to do a biography on Prince Harry—but, of course, this coincides with his engagement and his wedding. And it feels like, for me, a very exciting chapter in Prince Harry’s life. So being able to chronicle it at this time, in a biography, has just been a wonderful opportunity.
When did you start working on the book?
The idea for the book came about in October/November , and I pitched the ideas to my publishers. Even though it was early days, everything I had heard was that Harry had really fallen quite heavily for this actress. Hearing that confounded my feeling that this was all very, very timely, and that there was every chance that the biography could coincide with a royal wedding. I was hearing even in the early stage that it was a really serious relationship. I started doing interviews in the new year  and started writing it, probably about March, early April.
Did you try to publish the book around when you thought the wedding might be, or was that also very lucky?
We were very lucky with the timing of this book. But as I was writing it, obviously the relationship was progressing at quite a speed, so, I was very hopeful that there would be a royal engagement and announcements. It was a case of really bringing the publication-day forward so that it worked with the royal wedding, of course, and bringing the book completely up to speed.
What were the difficulties with access for interviews?
As you can imagine, writing a biography on any member of the royal family isn’t an easy feat. They are incredibly private people. The royals don’t grant interviews for books; it’s really not the “done” thing. So, I was very reliant on my sources, and many of these were sources that I have had for many, many years, because, of course, I’ve been writing about the royal family for more than a decade.
I had a pretty good understanding of my subjects. Because I had set out to do a very positive piece of work, I think when people knew that my agenda was only positive, they were willing to speak to me.
What were those interviews about Harry like?
I must have spoken to about 100 people for the book, and no one had a bad word to say about him. People really were very positive about him. There are clearly times in Harry’s life when he has gone off the rails, and not all of the coverage has always been favorable. I did cover those in my book because they are part of his life. But for all the research in my book, for the most part, people were very positive. They portrayed a young man who is very genuine, very determined to use his role to do some good.
Since you wrote the book about Harry and William in 2010, what, overall, just seems different about him and his character and the way he presents himself?
The prince I was writing about in 2010 is quite different than the Harry I found myself writing about in this book. This Harry is more confident. He’s more settled, and I think he’s more aware of his role and willing to embrace his destiny now. I think it was was a struggle for him when he was younger. I think it was a struggle because the line of duty would be a very daunting prospect, but he’s grown up.
One of the charity workers that I spoke to compared being with Harry on the first Walking with the Wounded trip to the arctic to the second trip to the arctic. He said he noticed the real difference in Harry on that second trip; he seemed more comfortable in his skin.
Since Harry been speaking out so much about his own mental health and advocating for other people with his mental-health charity, Heads Together, what effect do you think this has had on the connection he makes with people?
2017 was a watershed year for the royals, but for Harry in particular. For the first time, we heard him open up about the impact that the death of his mother had had on him as a young man. He was quite amazingly honest and incredibly brave in going on record, so publicly, in talking about his own mental-health issues.
I think we were all very surprised because we don’t expect royals to be so open, and we don’t expect them to be so normal, either. And I think it was apparent from those interviews that he’s just a normal man. In one of my chapters I talk about the “Harry Magic,” and his ability to empathize with people, his ability to connect, and his willingness to be so open make him, I think, a very real and acceptable role model.
What do you expect will be different about this wedding in comparison to Kate and William’s wedding?
I think that Harry and Meghan want it to be different not just from the 2011 royal wedding but from the other weddings that they’ve been to. She’s clearly a very modern, independent, and opinionated—in a good way—young woman. And I think that can only be a good thing, because I think she’s going to bring a freshness to the royal family. Yes, she’s going to do things a bit differently, but you know what, from that perspective, she’s so well suited to Harry. Because if you look at Harry, he’s always done things a bit differently, too. He’s always pushed royal boundaries. You know, his mother broke royal protocol in so many ways, and Harry is very much Diana’s son.
His courtship with Meghan was quick. Why do you think that was?
I think Harry just knew. He’d had two big, serious romances. I went into both of those relationships in the book in quite a lot of detail—his relationships with Chelsy [Davy] and Cressida [Bonas]—and I was really interested in why both of those relationships didn’t end up in an engagement. I think when he met Meghan, he knew he’d met someone who was able to deal with the intense scrutiny that comes with being his girlfriend, someone with some real life experience, who could handle the media attention, and who loved him enough to make the sacrifices that the other women in his life haven’t been.
I think he recognized pretty early on that there was a real connection with them right from the start. I think it was a real case of Harry knowing that there was something special about Meghan and you know, he was gonna do everything he could to make that work.
What did you find surprising in your research?
Without a doubt, Harry’s time in Afghanistan. Obviously, there were cameras on both tours of Afghanistan, but I think really we only got a snapshot of his time out there, and I was really compelled by the accounts of some of the men that he served with in Afghanistan. I never realized what real danger Prince Harry was really in when he was out there on the front lines.
I loved learning about his sort of second home and the wonderful life that he can enjoy in Botswana. He’s described it as his spiritual home, and speaking to the people that know him, I think I know why it is so special to him, and I think it’s wonderful that he’s got a retreat sanctuary in Africa, which is a place that’s so close to his heart.
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