The May 2018 wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was the stuff of fairytales — at least on the surface.
Behind the scenes, it was reportedly a tsunami of temper tantrums, shouting matches and even a tiff over a tiara.
“Palace sources report that the preparation for the Sussex union was all drama, all the time,” Tina Brown writes in her new book, “The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — The Truth and the Turmoil” (Crown), out Tuesday. “Meghan’s MO was seen as revving up Harry when she sensed any obstruction.”
There was the now-infamous spat with the queen’s trusted dresser and confidant, Angela Kelly, over which tiara Markle would get to wear, prompting Harry to bellow, “Whatever Meghan wants, Meghan gets.”
And who can forget Markel’s dustup with her future sister-in-law Kate Middleton — reportedly over tights for the flower girls — that ended with, depending on who’s telling the story, either Middleton or Markle or both in tears.
Brown writes that a “Palace source” divulged there “was a lot of raging. In-person shouting in front of other members of staff, basically in front of too many people, which is why it all started to come out … “
The book also delves into other members of “The Firm” including Charles, Diana, Camilla, William and Kate Middleton — whom Brown believes would never have married the heir to the throne if it wasn’t for her socially savvy mother. Prince Andrew and his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein are also examined, with Brown dismissing the disgraced Duke of York “a coroneted sleaze machine.”
Brown looks at William and Harry’s difficult childhood and how their parents’ frequent arguments and their mother Diana’s obvious unhappiness affected them. Harry once beat on his father’s legs with his little fists yelling, “I hate you, I hate you, you make Mummy cry!”
The young princes also had to deal with their mother’s capricious nature.
“They got used to people they loved suddenly disappearing or falling out of favor,” Brown writes, including their favorite cousins, Beatrice and Eugenie, who were banished when Diana stopped speaking to the girls’ mother, Sarah Ferguson.
Harry found it tough at Eton, perhaps the most famous school in England and founded in 1440 by Henry VI. Grieving after Diana’s shocking 1997 death in a Paris car crash, he struggled academically. As a teenager, the prince, Brown writes, “regularly got into fights that turned physical, ending up on crutches after kicking in a window during a dispute with another student over a girl.”
Eventually, Brown writes, he was drinking too much and there was evidence that “temperamentally, Harry was a human IED.”
After a gap year — spent in part in Australia and South Africa — he enrolled at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2005.
Most everyone around the prince, Brown writes, agrees that the Army “saved Harry from going off the rails.”
But after leaving the military, he was “acting belligerent, carousing all night” and unhappy with his royal duties.
He met the beautiful model and actress Cressida Bonas through his cousin Eugenie in May 2012. The daughter of an Earl, Bonas “was of his world but not obsessed with it,” Brown writes. “A beauty but not a preening one, with a burgeoning career as an actress on stage and TV after leaving the University of Leeds.”
Among friends and family, “there was a general agreement that Ms. Bonas had all the makings of a perfect partner for Harry, who was madly in love with her.”
But Bonas reportedly grew weary of the prince’s volcanic temper.
One New Year’s Day, the couple went to a local pub with family for a meal when an elderly man approached them and asked to take a photo for his ailing wife. Bonas was about to say yes when Harry reddened and barked, “Get out of my way.”
“Without his army mates to cut him down to size, his sense of entitlement was out of control. His outbursts were ever more frequent and childlike,” Brown says of the prince.
Harry later admitted that he took up boxing during this time because he was always “on the verge of punching somebody.”
Harry’s “habitual mood,” Brown writes, was “increasingly truculent” as the prince constantly vented about his brother William and father Charles. He “felt perennially aggravated by the power wielded by his stepmother, Camilla, who made him feel like a visitor at Highgrove.”
Things were so strained Harry mostly communicated with his father through private secretaries.
He was particularly upset when the future king sent a message through his office asking his son what he would like for his 30th birthday — perhaps another dinner jacket?
A tailor was dispatched to take Harry’s measurements “and when it arrived one arm was shorter than the other…so it was picked up and returned in a box which seemed kind of analogous to their whole relationship. I.e., no communication, and when there was, it went wrong.
Brown reveals how Bonas eventually pushed Harry to get help.
“Cressida began to have serious worries about his mental health,” the author writes. “It was she who first persuaded Harry to see a therapist.”
But it was too late. Friends were expecting an engagement announcement, but after two years with Harry, Bonas had no intention of becoming a royal.
“Ultimately the intense focus on Harry’s problems to the exclusion of her own was too much for Cressida,” Brown writes.
When they broke up in 2014, according to the book, Harry penned his ex a “sweet letter saying I admire you, I wish you well and above all thank you for helping me to address my demons and seek help.”
The 31-year-old prince was “convinced he was going to be single for the rest of his life” until he laid eyes on Meghan Markle in July 2016.
When they met at London’s Soho Club that summer, Harry was lonely and wanted to start a family — although he had been spotted weeks before “dirty dancing with a pair of brunettes and downing shots at Jak’s Bar in west London.”
Markle felt similarly adrift. Her show “Suits” was winding down, she was about to turn 35, and her boyfriend, Canadian chef Cory Vitiello had “decided he wasn’t ready for marriage, even if she was.”
So perhaps it was no surprise that things moved fast. After two dates, the prince whisked the actress off to Botswana to stay in a $2,000 deluxe tent at a Kwena safari camp.
Harry came back over the moon. William, however, was skeptical.
“Every time his brother fell in love, it was an eruption of Vesuvius,” Brown writes. “‘You do realize this is the fourth girl you’ve taken to Botswana,’ he couldn’t help remarking after Harry’s starry-eyed account of the trip.”
Although William didn’t initially voice all his concerns, he “was nervous about the speed at which this was going down.”
The older brother worried that Markle would be giving up everything she knew in the U.S. and move to a country where she had “little understanding of British culture.” There was concern that “Harry’s mental fragility was such that he wouldn’t be strong enough to handle all of that on her behalf, as well as his own issue.”
Prince Charles, meanwhile, was “charmed by Meghan in their first encounter,” a lunch at his Highgrove residence where the two foodies bonded over his “homegrown Charlotte potatoes and Hapil strawberries … it wasn’t hard for Charles to be delighted by a beautiful woman who seemed fascinated by everything he had to say.”
But, Brown writes, “Within months of Harry’s involvement with Meghan, he reportedly told his father that his younger brother’s obsession with her was ‘like something I have never seen.’”
William’s wariness soon spread throughout the palace, as Markle’s promise to “hit the ground running” filled the institution with “dread.”
“Even before the engagement, she seemed to think that everyone in the shared office of William, Kate, and Harry was now hers to call in,” Brown notes. “What the Palace saw as her willful blindness to institutional culture was a direct clash with Meghan’s worldview.”
“Harry, who had always chafed at the hierarchy himself, was the last person to tell her to slow down,” Brown surmises. “They were both now drunk on a shared fantasy of being the instruments of global transformation, who once married, would operate in the celebrity stratosphere once inhabited by Princess Diana. Meghan, couldn’t, and wouldn’t, bide her time to get there.”
And the Palace and its inhabitants were not used to the way Markle allegedly treated staff.
Wiliam and Kate were “allegedly shocked by the way Meghan treated their shared employees,” Brown writes. “A typically uncomfortable incident had taken place during the rollout of the wedding plans when I was told Meghan yelled at a junior employee who held an announcement back because it clashed with something scheduled with the household of another senior royal.”
An insider declined to label it as “bullying behavior” but added that “I’ve certainly never heard of a member of the Royal Family talking like that to a member of the staff.”
Harry was dispatched to talk to his fiancée who subsequently apologized “but contrition became increasingly rare.”
(Markle has denied allegations of bullying staff.)
Later, the couple’s first big royal tour — a 16-day excursion across Australia, New Zealand and Fiji in October, 2018, was met with glowing reviews and rapturous crowds. But, Brown writes, Harry and Meghan were not happy.
“She apparently hated every second of it. She found the itinerary of engagements ‘pointless,’ a former Palace employee told me.’”
The new duchess’ “aggrieved mood” affected her husband, who was, in turn, “grumpy” and “glowering” with reporters and photographers he was once friendly with.
Critics speculate that Harry could have helped his American-born wife acclimate and learn the palace culture. But, according to the book, “He didn’t want to. Their new complicity required Meghan to fight all the norms he had kicked against for so long. She was now his comrade in arms. An aide described their confrontational stance to me as a mutual ‘addiction to drama.’”
In January 2020, the Sussexes pulled the trigger and announced they were quitting the royal family. But, Brown writes, getting their way turned out to be a shock.
“They thought … it would force the Royal Family to respond by saying … ‘Okay, Harry and Meghan, what do you want? We’re going to give you want you want,’” Brown quotes an insider as saying. Instead, after all the turmoil, the royal family shut the door.
Said a former adviser: “Harry and Meghan were really stunned.”