RICHARD KAY: There’s a sense of shock inside Palace circles after two royals are publicly identified as the supposed ‘racists’ in Omid Scobie’s book. The Royal Family look like they’re always one step behind events
Yesterday was not a good day for Omid Scobie. After conveying virtuous innocence over his part in how two royal family members came to be publicly identified as ‘racists’ on British television, his attempt to escape any blame for the fiasco provoked widespread ridicule.
While he did not personally broadcast the names of the two figures – media star Piers Morgan must accept responsibility for that seismic intervention – Scobie’s mealy-mouthed explanations about how a Dutch version of his book containing their identities came to be printed, was fast spiralling into a crisis for the monarchy.
For Buckingham Palace the clear focus is to ensure that this contemptible allegation does not overshadow the King’s trip to Dubai where he is opening the COP28 climate change conference, one of the most important events in his calendar.
And while it is not advisable to divine too much from royal body language, Charles’s response to being asked how he was on his arrival in the United Arab Emirates may indicate something of his mood. ‘I’m all right… just about,’ he told Nigeria’s President Tinubu, before going on to suggest that he was recovering from the ‘shock’ of turning 75 last month.
It was the kind of polished and diplomatic response we have come to expect from the King. But behind these exchanges Charles is said by friends to be furious at how deeply personal and sensitive discussions about the colour of his grandson Archie’s skin have come to be made public. They were matters that many in the Royal Family thought had been long settled and dealt with
Scobie’s mealy-mouthed explanations about how a Dutch version of his book containing their identities came to be printed, was fast spiralling into a crisis for the monarchy
Charles is said by friends to be furious at how deeply personal and sensitive discussions about the colour of his grandson Archie’s skin have come to be made public
Instead, the clock has been turned back almost four years to when the allegations were first aired in Harry and Meghan’s Oprah Winfrey interview.
Within Palace circles there was a sense of shock at events, along with some scepticism at the competing accounts of who was responsible.
The finger-pointing deepened last night when the translator who worked on Scobie’s book insisted the names of the two royals, the King and the Princess of Wales, were already in the manuscript she was sent.
Saskia Peeters said she did not add the names to the Dutch version of the book Endgame.
‘As a translator,’ she told the Mail, ‘I translate what is in front of me. The names were there. I did not add them.’
Speaking at her home in Arnhem and clearly shocked by the uproar over the Dutch version of the book, she added: ‘The names of the royals were already before me. I just did what I was paid to do and that was translate the book from English into Dutch.’
Mrs Peeters’ intervention directly contradicts statements by Scobie who has repeatedly said he did not include the names of the two royals when he submitted the completed manuscript to his publisher. Speaking on ITV’s This Morning yesterday, Scobie said: ‘I never submitted a book that had those names in it.’
The consequences of the two Royals being named on Piers Morgan’s Talk TV show were still being examined by royal aides said to be considering all options, including the possibility of legal action
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with their baby son Archie in South Africa in September 2019
Though this was at odds with his previous claims when he suggested that the Dutch misprint of his book had been due to ‘translation errors’.
But in an interview that was short on detail he offered no apology for all that has unfolded. Instead, he blamed publishers in the Netherlands for the error while persisting with his familiar complaint that he was unfairly treated by the media.
READ MORE: Omid Scobie says he’s ‘as frustrated as everyone else’ after ‘royal racists’ were named in Dutch translation of Endgame – as he insists he’s been treated ‘unfairly’ and fails to apologise for scandal
Omid Scobie has been on ITV’s This Morning to defend his book
Additionally, he made the breath-taking claim that he himself had been a victim of ‘character assassination’. A view that the two royals whose lives have been turned upside down might take serious issue with.
The consequences of them being named on Piers Morgan’s Talk TV show were still being examined by royal aides said to be considering all options, including the possibility of legal action.
For the Royal Family, the difficulty is that they are constantly one step behind developments.
After broadcasting the names on his Talk TV show on Wednesday night, Morgan then posted the identities to his more than seven million social media followers.
While some saw Morgan’s move as ‘self-serving’, others said it was underpinned by the right to free speech.
Morgan himself argued that he was merely demonstrating the hypocrisy of the names being easily found on the internet and in the Netherlands where many copies of the book were in circulation before publishers could pulp those unsold, while being denied to UK residents whose taxes pay for the upkeep of the royals and their lavish homes.
The controversy has parallels with what happened to the exiled King Edward VIII in the run-up to the Abdication in 1936.
Then, British newspapers did not cover the story of the King’s romance with the twice divorced American Wallis Simpson only to be shocked when details emerged overseas of the implications of the relationship, which revealed that he would have to sacrifice the crown for the woman he loved.
No one wants to return to those days of censorship when Britons were denied the ins and outs of their own monarchy but what about the rights of those accused of what Scobie refers in his book to ‘unconscious bias’?
Now that the world knows their identity, what can they do? And if they choose the legal route, who might they sue? Mr Scobie and his Dutch publishers?
Prince Archie pictured with his parents at his christening in this official photograph taken in July 2019
The original claim was made by Meghan Markle in the Sussexes’ infamous 2021 Oprah Winfrey interview (pictured)
Perhaps the two royals will do no such thing and instead Harry and Meghan will do the suing. Certainly that is a suggestion of the media lawyer Mark Stephens who says they may have a case against Scobie for breach of privacy. The names are said to have come from private correspondence between Charles and his daughter-in-law.
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It would, he says, have a twin purpose: preventing him or anyone else from repeating information that ‘should never have seen the light of day’ and as a demonstration of goodwill ‘it could be the great rapprochement’.
But judging by their silence, not just on the Scobie book, but on the whole racism claim, it seems highly unlikely.
Not since raising the matter with Oprah in 2021 have the couple returned to the subject. It did not feature in Harry’s memoir nor in the six-part Netflix series about their lives.
What might concern them, though, is who leaked the correspondence – or at least its contents – to Scobie. A palace insider described the possibility that the leak came from within the royal household as ‘vanishingly unlikely’. That leaves the Sussex circle, although they would deny any involvement in any leaks. It is also possible that Scobie has known of the letters and their contents for some time.
It is of course unlikely that for all their good intentions any palace inquiry will get to the bottom of the mystery.
And it is why those close to the named royals are angry on their behalf at what they see as the way their good intentions have been twisted.
‘Taking delight about the colour of mixed-race children is not racist but demonstrating curiosity,’ one source told me. ‘Had Harry married a blonde English girl there would have similarly been speculation about whether any children would have his red hair or take after his wife.’
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