"Revenge: Meghan, Harry, and the War Between the Windsors" by Tom Bower; Atria Books (464 pages, $25.99)
It was like a bad fairy tale: the princes and the peeved.
The tale of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry started as a storybook romance. But somewhere along the way, it dissolved into testy arguments and family feuds. Tom Bower's "Revenge" goes into the ugly details.
He thinks he knows who to blame, too. Although the book's full title is "Revenge: Meghan, Harry, and the War Between the Windsors," Markle is the book's real subject - and its snarky author's target.
Markle's beginnings didn't hint at the international drama to come. She was born in Los Angeles in 1981, the daughter of Thomas Markle, 37, and Doria, 24. Thomas was white, a lighting director on TV. Doria was Black, a free spirit trying to establish herself as a designer.
The marriage didn't last. But Thomas doted on his new daughter - "His whole life, his little princess," said Tom Jr., his son from a previous marriage. When Doria began traveling with her fashion business, Thomas assumed full custody. Meghan was 9.
She already enjoyed the spotlight. At a friend's birthday party, "Meghan was videoed sitting on a red blanket, wearing a gold crown," Bower writes. "Directing the other girls to bow and intone to her 'Your Royal Highness,' she had been influenced after watching a tape of Princess Diana's fairytale wedding."
Her father indulged her hunger for attention, paying for acting lessons and ballet class and doing the lighting for her school plays. He paid for college, too - $45,000 a year to study drama at Northwestern - and helped set her up after graduation with her own place and a used car. He even paid for the gas.
He would be amazed years later when Markle gave speeches to working class-college students, saying she understood their financial struggles. "I'm sorry but that is completely untrue," her father told the press. "I paid every penny of her tuition and I have the bank statements to prove it."
After college, Markle went on endless Hollywood auditions. Few paid off. She was one of the hostesses on "Deal or No Deal." She began an anonymous blog, Working Actress, and complained about having to "kiss actors with smelly breath." She met and wed a young producer.
The union - a "starter marriage," Bower snipes - didn't last. But Markle had already landed a part on "Suits." Her profile raised, she began chasing endorsement deals and spokesperson gigs. She also began to distance herself from her father and her past. Friends who tried to stay in touch noticed a change.
"The tone of her voice, her mannerisms, the way she laughed, didn't seem real to me anymore," one said. "It was like a light switched off."
With the success of "Suits," she did some Canadian TV commercials and landed a spot promoting a Christian charity. Then, during a "Suits" junket in London in the summer of 2016, Markle met a fashion publicist who was a childhood friend of Harry's.
Bower reports that Markle asked if the publicist could set up the actress with the prince.
A rendezvous was eventually arranged at a private London club. When Markle breathlessly told her agent, the woman wasn't surprised. "I understood where she was coming from," the agent said. "Her dream of bagging a prince was even written in one of her old blogs."
The date was a success, and Markle and Harry began seeing each other regularly. Four months after the couple's first date, the Sunday Express broke the news. "The British media was ecstatic," Bower writes. 'He's been happier than he's been in many years,' reported The Times."
The honeymoon with the press was brief.
British tabloids started investigating Markle's American roots. The coverage became snobbish, even racist. Papers reported her father lived in a shabby Hollywood apartment. They claimed her mother came from the slums. They quoted Markle's estranged half-sister calling her "a social climber with a soft spot for gingers."
A still-besotted Harry invited Markle for a weekend in the country to meet his friends. It didn't go well. She was a biracial, liberal, feminist Yank. They were white, wealthy, conservative Brits who liked hunting, riding, drinking, and politically incorrect jokes.
Markle was not amused and let them know it.
After the party broke up, Harry's friends quickly texted each other. "OMG what about HER?" "A total nightmare."
As we know, Harry proposed, and she accepted. After the formal announcement, there was a second burst of good publicity in the press. But privately, the family remained wary. Harry's Uncle Charles, Diana's brother, told him not to be hasty. Older brother William urged him "get to know the girl."
Harry didn't listen.
Wedding plans went forward. So did the friction. Palace staffers complained Markle was rude and demanding. "Princess Pushy," her half-sister had already nicknamed her.
There were fights over the wedding menu, the music, and the guest list. A conversation with Kate Middleton, Markle's soon-to-be-sister-in-law, reportedly ended with Kate's tears as the two argued over the dress Kate's 3-year-old was to wear.
Harry stuck up for his fiancée throughout. "What Meghan wants, Meghan gets!" he finally shouted.
After that, his grandmother, the Queen, summoned him for a private meeting. "He was put firmly in his place," the Times reported.
More than 17 million people watched the wedding. George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, and Serena Williams attended. The only one of Markle's relatives to come was her mother. Her father, a palace spokesperson, explained, was too ill to travel. The spokesperson did not add that father and daughter were no longer speaking.
The wedding itself was a success. But what came next? Traditionally, this was the point at which the new bride would be expected to take a step back and assume a supporting role. But Markle had always dreamed of being a star. She wanted to handle her publicity and pursue whatever new opportunities - charitable or commercial - arose.
"The Royal Family had embraced a media junkie determined to exploit her new status," Bower declares.
"She had never intended to give up her career and become a loyal member of the family."
Journalists began to compare the two young royal couples - and found the younger pair wanting. That only fed Markle's anger. "She hated the comparisons with uncomplaining Kate," Bower notes. The distance between the two brothers grew.
When Harry told William they should be more respectful of Meghan, William pushed back hard, citing her willful ignorance of protocol and rudeness to her staff. "Meghan's behavior, he told Harry, was unacceptable," Bower reports.
Harry was outraged. Markle was devastated. There were dark days ahead - and, she later said, thoughts of suicide. In 2020, the couple decided the only thing to do was turn their backs on all of it. They would give up any role as "working royals," Harry declared.
The couple has since settled in California, where they spend their time on multi-media business deals, a charitable foundation, and their two small children. And what have they left behind in England? Only bad feelings, insists Bower. He coldly sums up Markle as a "merciless opportunist."
Still, Bower admits, she has a unique strength: The "good fortune," he writes, to be incapable of feeling guilt.