THE NEW biographyFinding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, has highlighted the key role that Africa has played in the couple’s relationship.
In the book, published this week, authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand said of the couple’s relationship that “theirs was a love story that took hold in Africa”.
Harry and Meghan had a shared love of the continent, with both having previously visited the country for both charity work and holidays.
After just two dates in the summer of 2016 Meghan agreed to join Harry in Botswana, where the couple spent five days “sleeping out under the stars.”
The couple returned again the following summer.
“From driving trips across the Makgadigadi Pans, one of the largest salt flats in the world, to scoping out passing zebra, warthogs and hippos during romantic boat trips along the Boteti, each day brought a different kind of excitement” the book says.
And when the prince went in search of an engagement ring, the southern African country was very much in his thoughts: the ring he eventually chose had a diamond from Botswana at its centre, as well as two diamonds from his mother Princess Diana.
However even before the couple met, they both had a keen interest in the continent through their involvement in various charity projects which saw them spend time with locals.
Meghan was a Global Ambassador for World Vision, the world’s largest international children’s charity, from 2016 – 2017.
She travelled to Rwanda in early 2016 with World Vision to see first-hand the importance of clean water and while visiting a school she taught students to paint with watercolours, using water from a newly installed pipeline in their community.
Prince Harry often visited the continent as part of his work for the charity Sentebale, a charity he founded with Lesotho’s Prince Seeiso in 2006 which provides support for children in Lesotho, Botswana and Malawi affected by HIV/Aids.
He often travelled to the continent in his role as patron for Rhino Conservation Botswana.
And, says Finding Freedom, it was his work in this role that helped deepen the couple’s bond.
“Harry was a tireless supporter of Botswana’s efforts to preserve its natural habitats” the book says.
“During the second week of their trip he showed Meghan the charity’s work. Its director, Martin ‘Map’ Ives, took the couple out to see some critically endangered black rhino which Harry helped move and fit with electronic tagging devices in September 2016.
“That Harry brought Meghan to see his work with the RCB was another testament to the depth of their relationship.”
The book quotes Ives as saying: “Harry has seen firsthand the cruel and senseless damage inflicted on these endangered animals by poachers. Rhino conservation is a deadly serious business and Botswana cannot do it alone – we need everyone to help us fight this battle.”
Speaking about the couple’s relationship Ives says in Finding Freedom: “There is a conservation angle to [their relationship]’ said Map ‘but there is also an emotional attachment.”
The book also details the time the couple spent with Dr Mike Chase who founded Elephants Without Borders which supports local communities to co-exist with elephants.
“The couple spent some time with Mike and his partner Kelly who showed an awestruck Meghan how to affix a satellite tracking collar to a ten-thousand pound mammal” it recounts.
Media commentators have said that perhaps there should be no surprise at the book’s assertion that the couple’s relationship deepened in Africa.
Speaking during the final day of last year’s Royal Tour to South Africa Harry, standing next to Meghan told international media how the continent had “held him in an embrace” when he first visited shortly after the death of his mother Princess Diana.
He said: “Ever since I came to this continent as a young boy, trying to cope with something I can never possibly describe, Africa has held me in an embrace that I will never forget, and I feel incredibly fortunate for that.
“I know that there are daily struggles that most of us couldn’t begin to imagine. Yet I have seen strength, resilience, a sense of hope and empathy that I can only aspire to replicate.”