Tensions between senior British royals and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been laid bare in an explosive new book claiming to offer the inside story of a royal rift that rocked Buckingham Palace.
Serialised in The Times newspaper, the book 'Finding Freedom' claims the young royals felt like they were being "sidelined" by family members and aides -- referred to by one source as "the vipers" -- before they stepped back from public duties in March.
"Increasingly, Harry had grown frustrated that he and Meghan often took a back seat to other family members," authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand write.
The book also claims Prince Harry and his wife's plans for "half-in, half-out" roles were frustrated by leaks from members of the royal household, adding that they felt like they were "being blocked" from discussing their plans with the Queen.
A spokesperson for the royal couple, who now live in Los Angeles, confirmed they were not approached or interviewed by the book's authors.
A statement read: "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were not interviewed and did not contribute to Finding Freedom.
"This book is based on the authors' own experiences as members of the royal press corps and their own independent reporting."
Relationship with the Cambridges
Among the book's most controversial claims relate to the Sussexes strained relationship with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
"The two duchesses’ relationship had struggled to move past the distant politeness of when they first met," write Scobie and Durand.
They also say that relations had become so embittered by March that the two couples barely spoke to each other at the Commonwealth service at Westminster Abbey, despite not having seen each other since January.
The Sussexes surprised the nation when they announced they would stop being working royals in January. Their highly-publicised retirement caused a sensation in the press, with headlines such as "Doesn't the Queen deserve better?" reportedly angering Prince Harry.
"Scrolling on his iPhone, he sometimes couldn't stop himself from reading the comments on the articles," the book claims.
While the media speculated that the decision to step back was made by Meghan, the book states that she was "willing to do whatever it takes" to make it work.
A source quoted in the book said: “The courtiers blame Meghan, and some family do.”
"He and Meghan didn't walk away from the monarchy; rather, they wanted to find a happy place within it," Scobie and Durand write in the book.
'Finding Freedom' is scheduled to be published in August and is being serialised in three parts in The Times and The Sunday Times newspapers.