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Katie Nicholl never planned to write about the royal family. While covering a glamorous celebrity party at London's Kensington Roof Gardens, she snuck out the back to get some fresh air. That's when she spotted then-17-year-old Prince Harry having a private party (you know, as a prince does). "That night, he was supposed to be revising for his A-levels. Instead, he was drinking vodka shots and smoking and chatting up these four blonde girls," recalls Nicholl. "We started chatting, then he invited me into his party. I got this invitation right into his inner set for a night, and I found it so fascinating to watch this prince who was so famous. It was a lot more interesting than celebrities, so I ended up writing about the royal family instead." That was 17 years ago.
For almost two decades, Nicholl has been chronicling the lives of the senior royals: Following them on their engagements around the world, keeping on top of their every move, and trying to score as many scoops as possible. She credits her career in royal reporting, which includes covering two major royal weddings (she was the first to break the news that William and Kate would wed), to being in the right place at the right time. "At that point, Harry and William were on the cusp of beginning their military careers. They were both big party boys, big polo players. They were very social. I had amazing access to them and their friends, and some of their friends were happy to talk."
Nicholl has used her reporting experience to write six books about the Fab Four, including her most recent, Harry and Meghan: Life, Loss, and Love (opens in new tab) (out April 9), which documents Harry's life since he was a little boy leading all the way up to how he met Meghan, their wedding, and the next chapter with their child.
"I started writing this book before Harry and Meghan were engaged. I pitched the idea in the summer of 2016 and while I was writing it the love story was blossoming, then it became public knowledge. By March, I realized that everything I was hearing from my sources—that this was a really serious relationship and had the potential to end up in an engagement—was true," says Nicholl. "I wanted it to be essentially about his life, the loss he suffered with his mother, and the love he's had. I chronicle all of the major love affairs in the book, including Chelsy [Davy] (opens in new tab) and Cressida [Bonas] (opens in new tab). I give Meghan very ample treatment because, of course, she turned out to be the most important one of all."
Here, in an exclusive interview with MarieClaire.com, Nicholl discusses how she managed to write Harry and Meghan in real time during the couple's whirlwind romance, and what's next for the royals as they await the arrival of baby Sussex.
Marie Claire: What was the most exciting part about writing Harry and Meghan?
Katie Nicholl: It was a wonderful opportunity for me to not just be an author, but a journalist, and really get to the bottom of how they met, who introduced them, where they had their first date, and all of those fascinating and compelling details. Then, of course, to cover the royal wedding (opens in new tab) was hugely exciting. I was co-anchoring the coverage with Adrienne Arsenault
for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). It was wonderful to be a part of a second royal wedding, having done Will and Kate's in 2011, then to bring the book right up to speed with the pregnancy and the royal birth. It's such an exciting chapter in Meghan and Harry's lives, and such an exciting chapter for me to be writing as a royal journalist.
MC: Did Will and Kate's wedding feel different than Harry and Meghan's?
KN: [Kate and William's] wedding at Westminster Abbey was different. Windsor enabled Harry to have, as big of a wedding as it was, a personal wedding—something that was quite different from his brother. I think Harry set out wanting that. He knew he wanted it at St. George's Chapel from early on. We were all struck by how different this wedding felt—not just to Will and Kate's, but to every other royal wedding we've seen. Change to me was very much the order of the day. There was so much that was new, dynamic, and wonderful about their wedding. I remember sitting back while the ceremony was taking place and thinking, I've never covered a royal wedding like this before. It was utterly unique, and I loved it for that.
MC: What were some of the more challenging aspects of writing this book?
KN: Really getting to the bottom of some of the meaty issues. Meghan's relationship with her father (opens in new tab) was something that fascinated me, and I really wanted to try and understand more about that—her fractured relationships with her family. I wanted to dive deep into the rumors of the rifts between the Fab Four (opens in new tab) and what really was going on. You read so much and you hear so much. I just wanted to capture a lot of the myths and get as close to the facts as I possibly could. I hope I've done that by speaking to really credible people—people who have known Harry his whole life and people who know them well as a couple. It's always one of the greatest challenges writing these books. I've been largely dependent on my 17 years of royal reporting and the contacts I've built up, including the Palace aides, and the friends in the inner circles who were happy to talk knowing it was going to be a very warm and positive book, which it is.
MC: Can you explain those feud rumors between Kate and Meghan?
KN: This idea of a catfight between the two Duchesses was never something I was aware of. I was told they weren't the closest of friends, but I was never told there was any big rift between them. I had heard the rumor about Meghan apparently reducing Kate to tears about the bridesmaid dress fitting (opens in new tab). I also heard that Meghan felt that Kate hadn't made enough effort to make her feel welcome in the family. There are always two sides to every story, but I think ultimately these are two women who know it's in neither of their interests to fall out or have a feud. They're far too sensible for that. I do think the brothers, being as close as they have been historically, are probably close enough to be completely honest and candid with each other. Sometimes that honesty has made a slightly raw and emotional experience between the two of them.
MC: Was it inevitable that Harry and Meghan would create their own household and split from Will and Kate?
KN: I think it was a part of Harry's development. It was always going to be the case when he met and fell in love with someone and married that person. For so many years he's been a team with his brother, sort of the third wheel with Will and Kate (opens in new tab), which actually worked far better than anyone expected it to. It feels right to me. It feels like the natural thing for him to be doing. However, I think without a doubt there has been tension behind the scenes. It's been a learning curve for Meghan, and it's been a learning curve for Harry as well. Ultimately, he found a soulmate in Meghan—that person to share the load with, something he's spoken about wanting for years. In her he found a new confidence to be his own person.
MC: Any predictions on the sex of Meghan and Harry's baby?
KN: Meghan and Harry have said they don't know the sex of their baby. A lot of first time parents choose not to find out because it's a wonderful surprise in life. I don't know if they know or not. I have heard rumors that it's a boy. There are sources who were saying that at her baby shower Meghan had apparently told some of her friends that she was having a boy. Yet I thought everything about the baby shower looked very pink and girly. However, we know that Meghan's going to have a modern approach to gender.
If they do know the sex, then they're keeping it a very good secret. And good for them, because they probably have so little that they can keep just between the two of them. So much of their relationship, their marriage, and their lives are of the public's consumption. Maybe this has just been a nice secret for them the past nine months.
MC: How much more private do you think Meghan and Harry will be now that they're moving to Windsor?
KN: A lot of people have read into this move to Windsor as being a rift between Harry, Meghan, Will, and Kate, and I think it far more has to do with the fact that Harry is a country boy. He's not a pavement person. He loves the countryside, Meghan loves the countryside. It was the one thing she adored when she visited England about five years ago when she came in for a big charity event.
I think the real reason for this move is wanting their own identity, their own household, their own space, but I do think it comes down to a privacy issue. At Frogmore, they're going to have the most wonderful freedom. They're going to have great space and fields. It's a wonderful place to bring up children, and it's a place Harry grew up in. He used to love going to Windsor Castle and having tea with his grandmother. He knows every inch of the grounds, every twist and turn of the town. He feels very safe and at-home there. I think the Windsor people will really take these two into their hearts. Look what it did for the town after the royal wedding—the business it brought and the people it brought. The town will really embrace Meghan and Harry the same way Norfolk has embraced Kate and William.
MC: Will Meghan give birth in the Lindo Wing like Kate Middleton and Princess Diana?
KN: I've been told that if they're at Frogmore, the chances are likely Meghan will give birth at a Windsor hospital, and that would make sense. If they're not in Windsor, then it's more likely it will be in a London hospital. The Lindo Wing (opens in new tab) is totally geared up for royal births. It can accommodate them better than any other hospital in terms of security and safety, which is paramount.
There is a little bit of me that wonders if Harry might avoid it all together and keep this birth low-key—perhaps not doing the traditional photo call we've become accustomed to. Maybe we'll have a photograph of the threesome posted on their new Instagram account (opens in new tab) rather than posing on the steps of the hospital. With Meghan and Harry, their wedding proved that anything is possible. While we have seen Harry do things differently, he's a traditionalist at heart, and he has great respect for the establishment that he was born into.
MC: Will we be seeing baby Sussex even less than Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis?
KN: We don't see much of George, Charlotte, and Louis, and that's a very deliberate decision on Kate and William's part. They want their children to have private lives. George particularly enjoys a remarkably ordinary school life. They are having wonderful childhoods, and that's been so important to William and Kate. It's going to be really important to Meghan and Harry too. Harry grew up with a constant glare of the cameras on him. I think he's pretty resentful of the media, particularly the paparazzi. He doesn't like the photographers. He doesn't like the attention. He's not going to want that for his own children. He's going to want to protect them and keep them away from the spotlight as much as he possibly can.
Remember this baby is not going to be a future king or queen. It's further down the pecking order than the Cambridge's children so there's every argument for Prince Harry being able to insist on this child having privacy. What will be interesting is how they raise this child: Are they going to raise it truly royally—with an awareness of its royal state, a title, and everything that comes with being a royal baby—or will they go out of their way to try and give this child a really ordinary life, like the Wessexes have done with their children? They have the freedom to have independent lives and careers outside of the royal family, and Harry may choose to have that for his children too. However, I think it's unlikely they'll be able to do that because there's so much interest in the couple. They have this incredible global platform and they want to do this amazing work, which will suggest that they're going to continue to be these global superstars of the royal family. That would make having a child out of the spotlight quite challenging.
Rachel Epstein is an editor at Marie Claire, where she writes and edits culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also manages the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game, finding a new coffee shop, or analyzing your cousin's birth chart—in no particular order.
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