Andrew Morton is one of the preeminent royal biographers. In 1992, he wrote Diana: Her True Story, with the secret help of the Princess of Wales, who wanted the world to hear her account of her troubled marriage. Later, Morton went on to write about a host of Hollywood celebrities, as well as a recent book on Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee who caused Edward VIII to abdicate.
Now Morton has published Meghan: A Hollywood Princess, in which he takes a close look at the life of Meghan Markle, the former actress and humanitarian who is the first American to marry into the British royal family since the Simpson debacle. Though Markle and Simpson have some qualities in common, Morton says Markle brings her own formidable strengths to her new role as Duchess of Sussex.
Sarah Harrison Smith: As you researched this book about Meghan Markle, what did you discover that come as a surprise?
Andrew Morton: What was most surprising and interesting was that Meghan had a moral compass from an early age. She knew the difference between right and wrong. She stood up to bullies at school and I spoke with several former school friends who cherished her support and friendship because she had taken their side when it would have been easier to walk on by.
What aspects of Meghan’s earlier life to you think will help her in her new role?
Like many children of divorced parents, Meghan learned to be diplomatic and fluid in her approach to her warring mother and father. She was the peacemaker. In fact she wanted to be a diplomat but failed the State Department exam. Seeing the other point of view is an invaluable gift to help get her through all those State dinners and other gatherings of the powerful and influential.
Based on what you learned about Meghan, what do you expect will be the biggest challenges she will face as a member of the British royal family?
Understanding their sense of humor and peculiar taboos and rules; who enters a room first, who sits down first, who curtsies to whom and so on. I was discussing this very question with a close friend of Diana’s recently and he recalled that she and Fergie found the rules of the royal game the hardest to get used to.
You wrote Diana: Her True Story in 1992. What do you think Diana, the late Princess of Wales, would have felt about Meghan as a daughter-in-law?
I think Diana would have been thrilled to see her second son who was so lost and alone for so many years now have the light of love blazing from his eyes. Everyone who attended the wedding – and I enjoyed commentating for ABC television – was moved by the romantic and intimate scale of the affair. Also she would have liked the fact that Meghan has her own opinions, is well-read and will fight her corner. Diana was no pushover and neither is Meghan.
In what other ways does Meghan resemble Princess Diana?
They were both different personalities at a young age; Meghan was self-confident, enjoyed performing and was an activist in the school yard organizing, for example, demonstrations against the first Gulf War. By contrast, Diana was shy and hid at the back during school plays. Unlike Meghan she was not especially academic. However the remarkable aspect of her life is that she had an uncanny ability to connect with people. She was also resolute and courageous in taking on causes particularly AIDS that were unpopular. Like Meghan, she saw herself as an outsider but an outsider who could use her position to have an impact on wider society. This attitude marries well with Meghan. By their early 30s they were both glamorous, groomed humanitarians who used their voice to make a difference.
You mention that like that other American who married into the British Royal family, Wallis Simpson, Meghan is very good at networking. How did that manifest itself in her life before her marriage?
Like the other American who married into royalty, Wallis Simpson, Meghan was a networker supreme. While Wallis made friends and influenced people with her nightly cocktail parties, Meghan used her blog, The Tig to connect with celebrities such as Heidi Klum and Ivanka Trump. Aware that an actor’s life is precarious, she was always trying to find other avenues to promote herself, attending club launches, fashion shoots and keeping influential journalists on speed dial. If she hadn’t been an actress she would have been a good journalist.
Are you working on a new biography now? What can you tell us about it?
I am always looking at new avenues and I am actively considering a new biography now. But let’s not be hasty. Let’s wait and see what my publisher says!!
Thank you so much, Andrew Morton.