Meghan Markle today announced she has written a £12.99 ($18.99) children’s book called The Bench, which is inspired by Prince Harry and her son Archie and comes illustrated with pictures of a red-headed soldier.
The Duchess of Sussex, 39, said the book – which will come out in the UK and US simultaneously – was inspired by a poem she had written for Harry on Father’s Day the month after Archie was born and would explore the ‘special bond between father and son’ as ‘seen through a mother’s eyes’.
The story, which will be published on June 8 by Random House Children’s Books, will be illustrated by bestselling Californian artist Christian Robinson, who was brought up by his grandmother in a one-bedroom flat also shared with his brother, two cousins and aunt.
A publicity release said Meghan, who chose to use her title on the cover of the book, wanted the story to be told through an ‘inclusive lens’ and will feature a ‘diverse group of father and sons’. Meghan will also narrate the audiobook costing $4.99 – which together with the hardback version could earn her millions from sales.
In one illustration, a red-headed soldier wearing an American-style Army cap is seen holding his young son aloft as a woman watches on crying from a window. This is a likely reference to her and Harry, who served in Afghanistan with the Blues and Royals. The words read: ‘This is your bench, Where life begins, For you and our son our baby, our kin’.
The royal, who went by the pen name ‘Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex’, said in a statement: ‘The Bench started as a poem I wrote for my husband on Father’s Day, the month after Archie was born.
‘That poem became this story. Christian layered in beautiful and ethereal watercolour illustrations that capture the warmth, joy, and comfort of the relationship between fathers and sons from all walks of life; this representation was particularly important to me, and Christian and I worked closely to depict this special bond through an inclusive lens.
‘My hope is that The Bench resonates with every family, no matter the makeup, as much as it does with mine.’
It is not known if Meghan has received an advance for the book and whether any of the proceeds will be donated to charity, but a branding expert has suggested it would have already netted her £500,000 following a ‘bidding war to secure her first venture’.
Popular culture expert Nick Ede told FEMAIL that the Duchess of Sussex would’ve likely been paid between a £250,000 to £500,000 advance to write the book. In authoring a children’s book she follows in the footsteps of fellow Royals Sarah, the Duchess of York, who has produced her own money-spinning series, and Princess Michael of Kent.
The Sussexes were seen sitting on a bench in the garden of their Montecito home in September last year when they urged Americans to ‘reject hate speech’ in a controversial intervention before the US election. However, in quotes promoting the book Meghan refers to a poem she wrote a month after Archie was born, when they were still in the UK.
Photos from inside the book shows a boy being lifted into the air by a red-haired man in military uniform as a woman weeps from the window.
The words accompanying the picture say: ‘Looking out at My Love and our beautiful boy. And here in the window I’ll have tears of joy’.
Another image features a father with his baby boy sleeping on a lounger outside.
The words say: ‘From here you will rest, see the growth of our boy’.
A media release reads: ‘Inspired by her own husband and son, The Duchess of Sussex’s debut touchingly captures the evolving and expanding relationship between fathers and sons and reminds us of the many ways that love can take shape and be expressed in a modern family.
‘Evoking a deep sense of warmth, connection, and compassion, The Bench gives readers a window into shared and enduring moments between a diverse group of fathers and sons—moments of peace and reflection, trust and belief, discovery and learning, and lasting comfort.’
The press statement described the Duchess of Sussex as a ‘mother, wife, feminist, and activist’ who ‘currently resides in her home state of California with her family, two dogs, and a growing flock of rescue chickens’.
Meghan previously wrote a blog, The Tig, and has also penned an article for Time magazine. Her other publishing experience includes guest editing Vogue in September 2019.
The Bench’s illustrator, Christian Robinson, is from Meghan’s home state of California and has previously worked with Sesame Street and Pixar.
H recently received a Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor for his art in Last Stop on Market Street.
Other royals to have written books include Prince Charles, who penned A Vision of Britain: A Personal View of Architecture (1989) and a children’s book, The Old Man of Lochnagar, in 1989.
The Queen’s first cousin, Princess Michael of Kent, has written several historical novels and the autobiographical A Cheetah’s Tale, about her early life travelling Africa and raising a cheetah cub.
The book is published by Penguin Random House and will be released on June 8.
It is the latest venture since the Sussexes signed a £75million Netflix deal and a lucrative partnership to produce podcasts for Spotify.
The couple’s first series for Netflix will be a string of documentaries about the Invictus Games, while today Oprah Winfrey confirmed that Apple TV’s mental health series with Prince Harry will finally air this month.
On Sunday, Harry walked on to a standing ovation and told the crowd they were ‘awesome’ as he joined stars at a ‘Vax Live’ Covid concert in LA.
It comes as a royal expert warned that new chapters of the Sussexes’ biography, Finding Freedom, would expose sensitive information including ‘intimate details’ of conversations at Prince Phillip’s funeral.
An updated version of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s biography by authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand is set to be released this summer.
The first edition was published on August 11 last year and painted a flattering picture of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from when they met in 2016 to their departure from the Firm in early 2020.
According to The Sunday Times, it is now being updated with new chapters which will cover their tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey, the allegations that Meghan, 39, bullied royal staff – which she denies – and the death of Prince Philip.
Duncan Larcombe, author of Prince Harry: The Inside Story, warned there will be ‘no chance’ of a reconciliation if the book divulges more negative information about the royals or in-depth details of any personal conversations between Harry and his family after the funeral.
‘That really will be the final straw,’ he told Closer magazine. ‘That’ll be it – there will be no chance of a reconciliation ever and all trust will be broken.
‘How could anyone from the Royal Family trust them again if the intimate details of conversations were leaked. Why would they want anything more to do with them? Those chapters will be extremely telling as to the state of the royal rift as it stands now, and to where it’ll head in the future.’
The updated Finding Freedom, which is also expected to discuss their multi-million pound deals with Netflix and Spotify, their new life in California and the Queen’s decision to strip them of their royal patronages including Harry’s military roles, will go on sale on August 5.
It was hoped that Harry and his brother William would start to build bridges following the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, but the reissue of Finding Freedom is only likely to aggravate tension between the Sussexes and the Firm, it has been claimed.
‘The Oprah interview detonated a bomb under the Royal Family and most of them are still reeling in shock. The book will not help,’ a senior courtier told The Sunday Times.
Another senior royal source added: ‘After Oprah, what else is there to say?’
While he admitted it ‘makes sense’ for there to be more chapters to address unanswered questions about the Oprah interview, what was said to Gayle King and what was said in the wake of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, Duncan added that he hopes the recent rebuilding of bridges will have deterred the Sussexes from worsening the rift.
‘Whatever’s said will be a bombshell – everyone is just so gripped by the situation,’ he told Closer.
‘But we have to hope Harry and Meghan have been encouraged by the recent progress made during Harry’s trip to the UK… so that they don’t do any more damage.’
The senior source added that if it appears Harry and Meghan have worked with the authors this time and made negative claims or revealed private discussions, it could be ‘over for them’ with the Firm.
‘If the content isn’t vague or neutral, it could cause another huge fallout,’ Duncan warned.
Last week Duncan claimed Harry was ‘hurt and angry’ over how his wife was treated by the Royal Family and used their Oprah Winfrey interview to ‘get it out’ – but is now ‘regretful and embarrassed’.
Finding Freedom, which was spotted on sale for 99p in January just five months after its release at £20, raised eyebrows for its gushing praise and intimate knowledge of Harry and Meghan, but the couple claimed they were not interviewed and did not contribute to the book.
It was declared a bestseller, with 31,000 copies sold in the UK in the first five days of its release, according to figures from data provider Nielsen Book.
The book offers a window into Meghan and Harry’s lives during their time as senior royals, and is full of details on their shock exit from the royal family.
It addresses the alleged rift between brothers Harry and William – with the former being ‘p****d off’ by his ‘snobbish’ sibling’s suggestion he take ‘as much time’ as he needed to get to know Meghan before proposing, as well as the relationship between their wives.
The book alleged that Meghan was ‘disappointed’ that Kate, 39, wasn’t ‘welcoming enough’.
Scobie said that while they did not interview the couple, ‘many’ friends gave them insights – providing ‘a lens to the couple through their friends and their circle of aides’.
Royal expert Katie Nicholl said the authors may be the ‘only winners’ from the publication of Finding Freedom. Writing in Vanity Fair, she asked if the book was ‘worth it for Harry and Meghan’ before adding: ‘The irony of Finding Freedom is that, locked down in their rented mansion in LA, the Sussexes have less freedom than they did when they lived in Windsor.’
Meanwhile she added that the book’s authors write that the monarchy had lost two of its greatest assets.
She concluded: ‘They, perhaps, might be the only winners in this rather sad story.’
After the emotional funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh, William and Harry took ‘baby steps’ towards healing their relationship when they walked back to Windsor Castle from St George’s Chapel together after being pushed together by peacemaker Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Later there was a face-to-face meeting within the grounds of the castle between the brothers and their father Prince Charles. Harry had been widely reported to have been planning to stay for the Queen’s birthday, although sources said he was ‘conflicted’ about the decision and wanted to get home to Meghan, who is pregnant with their second child, a girl.
In other money-making ventures, Harry and Meghan previously signed lucrative deals with Netflix and Spotify, thought to be worth £71million and £18million respectively.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex told Oprah Winfrey during their primetime interview that they ‘had no plan’ to ink multi-million-dollar deals with the ‘streamers’ when they first quit the royal family.
But Harry said they were forced to find ways of making money when the royal family cut him off and took away his security. He told Oprah: ‘I’ve got what my mum left me, and without that, we would not have been able to do this.
‘During COVID, the suggestion by a friend was, “What about streamers?”‘ Harry continued, while Meghan added: ‘We genuinely hadn’t thought about it before.’
‘We hadn’t thought about it,’ Harry continued. ‘So, there were all sorts of different options. And look, from my perspective, all I needed was enough money to be able to pay for security to keep my family safe.’
Harry and his brother William inherited £21million from their mother Diana. The money was held in trust until they turned 25.
Harry also received a smaller figure from the Queen Mother’s will after she died in 2002, putting his total inheritance assets at around £23million, the Times estimates.
When Meghan starred in US TV drama Suits she was paid £2million over six years. She also raked in six-figure sums for film roles and owns property in Toronto.
Before stepping back from royal duties in December 2019, Harry received the vast majority of his income from the Duchy of Cornwall – a portfolio of property and financial investments managed by Prince Charles.
For the financial year 2018-19, this amounted to more than £5million. It is believed Charles, who initially continued to fund the couple, withdrew financial support from the duchy last year when it became clear their move to the US was permanent.
About 5 per cent of the couple’s income came from the taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant, but Buckingham Palace announced the couple would no longer receive public money after their decision to quit as frontline royals.
The couple have set up their own organisation, Archewell, which includes a not-for-profit enterprise and production companies for audio and video content.
It aims to drive ‘systemic cultural change across all communities, one act of compassion at a time.’
Last year, the duchess took on one of her first major media engagements since stepping back as a senior royal, narrating a Disney documentary about elephants.
SOURCE: Daily Mail