Meghan: a Hollywood Princess, review: Andrew Morton channels Jackie Collins

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Loves courgettes: Meghan Markle - AFP
Loves courgettes: Meghan Markle - AFP

The first time Andrew Morton brought out his biography of Meghan Markle, she was about to marry Prince Harry. Those were the days, weren’t they? We knew nothing of the tiffs over tiaras and bridesmaid's dresses. No-one had invented the word “Megxit”. Oprah Winfrey’s best-known interview was still the one where Tom Cruise jumped on her couch.

Now Morton brings us the “fully revised and updated” version. Talk about buzzkill. Where the original book was an enjoyable read chronicling Meghan’s determined rise, this one takes all of the newspaper cuttings from the last three years and bungs them on the end in one stodgy data dump.

Meghan is “a figure who inspires adoration or contempt”, the book tells us, but Morton sits on the fence. He says that some of the jaw-dropping claims in the Oprah interview “would never have survived rigorous cross-examination in a court of law” but doesn’t want to appear too critical of the couple. “Their truth was not necessarily the truth,” he says, twice, psychobabble of which Harry and Meghan would be proud. At other times, he’s just weirdly out of step with reality, as when the couple announce they are quitting the Firm and leaving the UK forever: “For Meghan, she was simply moving back to Canada, a country she had lived in from 2011 to 2017.” Really?

A biographer is only as good as their sources, which is why Morton’s Diana: Her True Story was an absolute blinder, but this one is not. The first half of the book, pre-wedding, is much better because Morton has done the work and spoken to people who knew Meghan at different stages in her life, but also because he could mine her now defunct blog The Tig for all the Goop-y details.

Meghan wrote a lot about food on her blog, so we get a lot of that in the book. There’s the “filthy, sexy mush” - no, not the synopsis for one of her films, but her recipe for boiled courgettes - and a Greek holiday that featured “wine, red mullet, hummus and incredible yoga moves”. Morton loves this sort of description, written in the style of a Jackie Collins novel. My favourite, terrible, chapter opening is this: “Feeling bloated and puffy-skinned, her black leather trousers a little too tight, Meghan, who had just returned from a ‘carb-heavy’ holiday, was just a tad out of sorts as she sat alongside her Suits co-stars on the dais at the five-star Langham Hotel in Pasadena, California…”

That’s all good fun, but there is also a queasy fixation with Meghan’s roots. “A mixed-heritage woman who could trace her lineage back to the cotton fields of Georgia.” “Her ancestors were slaves who worked on the cotton plantations of Georgia.” “The blooming of Meghan’s family, from picking cotton under the blazing sun to seeing one of their own taking her wedding vows to a royal prince.” And Meghan’s mother, Doria, with her “jaunty Afro”, whatever that is.

Perhaps Morton is a fan of Meghan, or perhaps he’s too scared to criticise her in case the #SussexSquad come down on him like a ton of bricks. But the only digs he sneaks in are directed at Harry, from his “unenviable reputation [as a 20-something] as an angry drunk with poor judgment” to a mention of the racist incidents in his past (and they’re worth mentioning, seeing as Harry now lectures the rest of us on how to behave). When he took Meghan on safari, “those who monitor these things would have noted that this was his seventh holiday in Botswana with the fourth female companion to join him for a few romantic nights”. Miaow!

Morton also notes that US media mogul Tyler Perry sent the couple a $100,000 grand piano as a housewarming gift “although neither Meghan nor Harry have displayed any particular musical talent”. Don’t tempt fate, Andrew. An album deal is probably just around the corner.

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