Andrew Morton's new biography of the forthcoming princess is as predictable as it is offensive says Sophie White
Royal biographer, Andrew Morton was pretty quick out of the gate with his latest book. Meghan: A Hollywood Princess is landing just weeks before the Suits actor weds Prince Harry.
Morton, a former Daily Star journalist, famously penned the 1992 royal exposé Diana: Her True Story and was largely despised in the United Kingdom, written off as a "vulgarian" who made up the salacious details about abuse, bulimia and the princess' marriage. After she died, a revised version was published which included transcripts of the original tapes that Morton had acquired to write the first book. The revised version provoked even more ire with Bob Geldof famously calling him "a loathsome creep gorging on the memory of the woman who handed him his cheque" and the Red Cross refusing his donation.
Yorkshire-born, Morton feels that there's a classism at play when he is criticised, telling the Independent in a 1997 interview: "If you are given £100m just for being born, it's OK. But if you work hard and earn some money, then the British despise you."
It is known that Princess Diana never wanted to be revealed as the source for Diana: Her True Story but, as Morton knows better than anyone, while we the public condemn him as a vulture, it is also we who ravenously consume the lives of these complex and tragic women.
In the years since, Morton has become wealthy thanks to our appetite for celeb dish, writing more biographies, and trawling the Royal annals further with Wallis in Love – another American divorcee, though one that the Firm was not quite as welcoming towards.
Early reports of the Markle biography and extracts printed in the Sunday Times are already painting an intriguing picture, though not of the woman herself but rather the latent sexism revealed in the dated things her biographer apparently thinks are "revelations".
Among the "shocking" details exposed about Markle is the bombshell that she was obsessed with Princess Diana.
Stop. The. Lights.
A woman in her 30s obsessed with Diana? Well this can only mean one thing: this woman is the queen of the long game. Since her mid-teens, she has apparently been scheming and plotting to nab the younger Prince, even going so far as to marry someone else – presumably as an elaborate decoy?
On Markle's previous marriage, Morton particularly struggles to glean anything of intrigue. Among the hilariously UN-damning revelations about the end of Markle's marriage to TV producer, Trevor Engelson, is a decision to take with her from the martial home, a kitchen appliance – her Vitamix blender. She left Engelson in LA and eloped with the Vitamix to Toronto where according to Morton, "it sat on the kitchen counter... a material reminder that her home was no longer in Los Angeles."
Or she could've, ya know, needed to blend stuff.
“Morton portrays Markle in the book as a social climber,” was ABCnews' take. “A networker to her fingertips, she seemed to be recalibrating her life, forging new friendships with those who could develop her career.”
The fact is that Morton has little to work with in "exposing" Markle so the details that he settles on seem petty and a little ridiculous. Did you know for example that one time... wait for it... Markle put on 15 pounds. Seriously.
Aside from the banality of these reports there is something of irritating value to note here and that is the inherent sexism at play. Weight gain or a focus on networking and career advancement would not be considered worthy of remark in the biography of a man.
“She was her own woman now," Morton writes. "Earning a steady income, making new friends on set and off, no longer dependent on her husband’s connections."
The suggestion that Markle became her own woman says a lot about Morton's ideas about women in general. Of course, Morton is doing what all biographers do, knitting an intriguing narrative from the disparate facts of a subject's life and presenting a plot of sorts – though the one he's settled on with Markle cast as a schemer and manipulator feels dated. She was carving out a successful career, she'd hardly be desperately wishing for the scrutiny and luxurious incarceration that would come with joining the Royal family.
Morton doesn't seem to have received the memo that all women are not pining to be princesses. His own previous book is probably one of the most persuasive arguments ever that a royal life, is not necessarily a happy one. And while obviously there is the small matter of cashing in on the current Megan-Mania, Morton had an opportunity here to frame Markle's ascent to royalty is far more insightful and relevant way than simply: woman is successful, ergo she is conniving.
Although, if Markle is as ruthless and calculating as Morton apparently wants to believe she is, then thank god – she's gonna need her witchy wiles to thrive among her new in-laws.
Meghan: A Hollywood Princess is published in the UK and Ireland on April 12.