Happy Father’s Day!
For Prince Harry’s first Father’s Day in 2019, Meghan gave him a bench. She describes the gift in her first and only interview about her new book, The Bench with National Public Radio’s (NPR) Samantha Balaban recorded shortly before the birth of the couple’s daughter, Lili.
As most of us do, you go, what am I going to get them as a gift? And I thought I just wanted something sentimental and a place for him to have as a bit of a home base with our son,” Meghan says.
On the back of that bench is a little plaque with a poem Meghan wrote.
"This is your bench, Where life will begin For you and our son Our baby, our kin."
Two years later that poem developed into a book, The Bench, now a New York Time’s best seller.
Meghan continues —
I often find, and especially in this past year, I think so many of us realized how much happens in the quiet – In the story I’m observing this love between my husband and our son and imagining what it will be as they have more shared moments as our son gets older. So from scraping a knee to having a heart broken whatever it is that they always reset at this bench and have a moment to bond.”
Meghan requested artist Christian Robinson to illustrate the book.
Christian speaks about how he received an email asking if he wanted to do the illustrations for a book by the Duchess of Sussex. He was so excited and immediately fell in love with the book after reading the manuscript.
This was just like, one day getting an email being like, ‘Would you want to work with Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex?’ And I’m like, in complete disbelief and excited. For me it was a no brainer.”
Christian explained that he usually works in acrylic and cut-out pieces of paper. But for The Bench, he did the illustrations in a different medium.
The Illustrator continues —
What makes creativity fun is when things are improvised, when you are kind of on your toes, when you kind of have to explore and play and experiment. So I was up for the challenge and I really think it was just the right note.”
The Duchess explained how she wanted Christian to try something new and work in watercolors.
And that was specifically because I just felt that when you talk about masculinity and you talk about fatherhood, it can often not come across with the same softness that I was really after for this book. And I just wanted this to feel almost ethereal and light and Christian was able to use that medium and create the most beautiful images.”
The book begins and ends with illustrations of Meghan’s own family but the rest of the book shows all kinds of families. This was something that was important to both Meghan and Christian.
I think for me, inclusivity and representing as many different families as we could was at the heart of this book,” says Robinson.
Meghan adds —
Growing up, I remember so much how it felt to not see yourself represented. Any child or any family hopefully can open this book and see themselves in it, whether that means glasses or freckled or a different body shape or a different ethnicity or religion.”
Meghan touched on including the military family and spoke of her USO tour back in December 2014.
Sargent Strong from Texas was with us, he was deployed in Afghanistan, and he had told me this story about how he wasn’t able to teach his son how to play catch because he was away and so he and his son would mail this baseball back and forth to each other from Texas to Afghanistan and write the date on it. That stuck with me.”
In The Bench, a mother standing at a window cries tears of joy, while a father in a military uniform greets his son. The father has thrown off his backpack in excitement, and the boy has discarded his popsicle to jump into his father’s arms.
That page is true to form for him and his family,” Meghan says. “There are lots of little small moments like that that were personal memories or anecdotes that I wanted infused in there.”
Below, Meghan on the USO tour, December 2014, with Actor/comedian Rob Riggle, eight-time Pro Bowler Brian Urlacher, General Martin Dempsey, Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister, country music star Kellie Pickler and “Glee” star Dianna Agron.
credit: USO Photos by Dave Gatley
Some of those small moments and memories included in the book are Meghan’s favorite flower – the Peony, Harry’s mother’s (Princess Diana) favorite flower – Forget Me Knots and the family’s rescue chickens.
credit: Penguin Random House
Meghan also shared how much Archie loves the book.
He has a voracious appetite for books and when we read a book he says, “Again! Again! Again!”, but now that that he loves the bench and we can say, “Mommy wrote this for you!”, feels amazing.”
Even though The Bench is a very personal, intimate poem that Meghan wrote for her husband, she says she hopes readers find its message universal.
It’s a love story,” she says. “It’s really just about growing with someone and having this deep connection and this trust so that, be at good times or bad, you know that you had this person,” she says. “I really hope that people can see this as a love story that transcends the story of my family.”
You can listen to the full interview below
Also this week, the Mayhew shared their 2020 Annual Review which included a message from The Duchess of Sussex, Patron of the Mayhew.
In her message, Meghan spoke of the impact of having a pet at home during the pandemic lockdown —
I have heard from so many of you about the impact of having a pet with you at home during the isolation of lockdown; you have mentioned the therapeutic effect of having your animal by your side and the solace and comfort you found in their company. This effect is something Mayhew strives to deliver day in and day out to people throughout the UK and beyond.”
She continued with importance of community and connection —
When I reflect on 2020, I always come back to the importance of community and connection. We may have been forced apart, but we found new ways to be close and to support each other through this shared crisis. For many of us, this was made all the easier with our pets by our side.”
Read Meghan’s full message here.