Royal historian A.N. WILSON, no matter how ridiculous Scobie’s book seems… this is a very real threat to the Crown and King Charles must take it seriously
Omid Scobie has entitled his ridiculous book about the Royal Family Endgame. Both in its pages, and on the apparently ceaseless round of TV interviews which he has done to promote his drivel, he is making big claims.
Not long ago, he told the popular TV show Good Morning America: ‘[For the monarchy] there’s no holding back any more. We are in the endgame.’
Scobie has a book to sell and, naturally, no tactic is too cynical if it serves the aim of earning back a small part of the enormous advance he has been paid to write it — and thus bring yet more riches from his appropriately named royalties.
Some readers will sneer at his effort. Surely, they will say, he is just a purveyor of tittle-tattle. How can the great British monarchy, stretching back to Alfred the Great, feel threatened by a youngish guy in a suede jacket telling us that, unless the King follows his advice, he is toast?
After all, when you actually analyse the fruits of Scobie’s researches, it does not amount to much.
The late Queen — says Scobie — thinks that Kate Middleton was ‘coachable’, unlike the late Lady Diana Spencer. Hardly earth-shattering.
What has propelled Scobie’s book onto the front pages, of course, is the semi-farce of the Dutch translation.
The late Queen — says Scobie — thinks that Kate Middleton was ‘coachable’, unlike the late Lady Diana Spencer. Hardly earth-shattering
Charles has had a really successful and popular first year
We all remember that Oprah Winfrey nearly fell off her chair in shock — or pretended to — when Meghan Markle told her that a member of the Royal Family was, by implication, racist. According to the Duchess, this was because the unnamed royal had expressed ‘concerns’ about the colour of Archie’s skin.
The real worry, so Meghan or her publicists wanted us to believe, was that Archie might inherit his mother’s African-American pigmentation. But is it not more likely that this was a perfectly innocent inquiry about which of his parents he would most resemble?
In the Dutch translation of Scobie’s book, the hitherto unnamed royal who put this offensive line of questioning was not, in fact, one person but two: the King and the Princess of Wales.
Was it all a carefully organised stunt?
Of course, we do not know if this is true. If — a very big if — Charles or Kate, or both, mused aloud on Archie’s future appearance, we do not know whether there was a smidgen of racism going through their head. But, in the Dutch edition, they were named nonetheless.
As a result, the entire print-run of the Dutch edition had to be pulped.
Difficult to know what was implied here.
Was it all a carefully organised stunt? As someone who has had his work translated into many languages, I can tell you that the Dutch print-run is always the smallest, since so few people speak Dutch and most Dutch people speak better English than we do.
So, if it was a hoax, they were not running much of a financial risk. They probably had to pulp only a few thousand copies, if that. And it makes a good story that someone mysteriously ‘leaked’ the true names of the alleged royal racists.
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the two names, Charles and Kate, are also the two royals who are doing the most to preserve and strengthen the monarchy as a serious constitutional entity.
Charles has had a really successful and popular first year; Kate shows an apparently inexhaustible willingness to be on parade on an almost daily basis — taking part in rugby practice, visiting hospitals and schools and smiling with natural radiance wherever she goes.
If you were wanting to undermine the monarchy, these two would be your targets. And that, perhaps, is why, having been initially scornful of the Omid Publicity Circus, we should perhaps be more vigorous in our rejection of his title — Endgame — and of his ambition.
Be in no doubt: he would like to bring down the British monarchy. Those who have the King’s best interests at heart should therefore take his ridiculous book far more seriously than you might think it deserves.
We all remember that Oprah Winfrey nearly fell off her chair in shock — or pretended to — when Meghan Markle told her that a member of the Royal Family was, by implication, racist
At any one time, there are two stories going on about the monarchy. One is what you could call the Royal Soap Opera, and the other revolves around the British constitution, of which the monarchy is a vital part.
We all enjoy talking about the Soap Opera — the marital gossip, the quarrels between family members, the sort of petty rumour-mongering which has been dramatised to such effect in Netflix’s The Crown or made into such riotous pantomime in Channel 4’s The Windsors. The alternative narrative is less accessible fare.
What makes Scobie’s interventions significant is that the two — the gossip and the constitution — are related to one another. Sometimes, in the history of the monarchy, what seems to be just soap opera and tittle-tattle turns out to be of absolutely historic importance.
Two obvious 20th-century examples are the Abdication Crisis of 1936 and the collapse of Charles and Diana’s marriage in the 1990s.
In both these cases, something that started out as trivial scuttlebutt erupted into a major crisis that could have brought the monarchy to an end.
In 1936, this was because so many people still took seriously the link between the Crown and the Church. The King wanted to marry a divorced woman, which in those days was forbidden by the Church of England, an institution of which he was head.
It was a headlong collision between private passion and the rules.
Because Edward VIII wanted private passion to win that contest, he had to go. Otherwise, a very core institution of the British state would have crumbled. In the case of the divorce of Charles and Diana, there were, of course, echoes of 1936 but by then the Church — and society — had a more laidback attitude to marital breakdown.
Many of the British people, including churchgoers, had experienced failed marriages. There was, nevertheless, a major constitutional crisis.
Our future head of state, in an interview with his friend Jonathan Dimbleby, confessed to adultery on primetime television. And Diana responded, disastrously, in kind with her now-notorious interview with Martin Bashir in which she trotted out the unforgettable line: ‘There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.’
Omid Scobie has entitled his ridiculous book about the Royal Family Endgame. Both in its pages, and on the apparently ceaseless round of TV interviews which he has done to promote his drivel, he is making big claims
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the two names, Charles and Kate, are also the two royals who are doing the most to preserve and strengthen the monarchy as a serious constitutional entity
Dark memories of that divorce haunt and trouble the King’s two sons and the embarrassing rift between William and Harry — and that between Harry and his father — both go back to the misery of the marriage and the tragedy of Diana’s death.
And this is where we start to realise, however absurd Scobie’s book may be, the disastrous potential of the publicity it generates.
Of course, it is a book about the Soap Opera, not about the monarchy. But that serious Constitutional Monarchy depends for its survival on public opinion.
The late Queen and her husband died full of years, having earned the respect not only of the British people but of the population of the world. It is therefore easy to forget that there were many wobbles along the way, not least in the first decades of their marriage, when it did not look at all certain that the monarchy would survive.
Prince Philip, in particular, was acutely conscious of this. His grandfather had been sacked as King of Greece and Philip had grown up in exile, with no status and no money except what his mother could cadge from her British royal relations.
Indeed, he and the Queen would go as far as to joke: ‘We’ll go quietly.’
But they devoted decades to making sure that they would not need to go and finished by handing on a monarchy to Charles that was in a stronger state than anyone could have predicted during the stormy years of the 1960s and 1970s.
Those stormy days will, quite inevitably, return. We do not know exactly what it is that will rock the monarchy — but something will do so.
Recent history — with spectacularly embarrassing marital failures among the late Queen’s first three children and alleged appalling behaviour by Prince Andrew — shows us how quickly the tinsel can be shaken off the tree.
Prince Harry isn’t the brightest chap in the world but he could see one fact about his parents that was plain as a pikestaff: the enormous popularity of his mother, Diana.
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In her own person, she was hugely more popular than any other member of the Royal Family and this was what did them all, and the institution of monarchy, such harm when she ended her marriage. Her subsequent death, in such tragic circumstances, dealt it another body blow.
She had demonstrated to everyone, but to no one more vividly than to her sons, a really dangerous fact: the Royal Family depends on public support and she had it in her power to turn millions of people against the institution because of the way they perceived she had been treated.
This is the story that plays again and again in Harry’s tormented head — and he has clearly believed, poor chump, at least in the early days of his marriage, that Meghan was going to be a Second Diana, whose personal magnetism would so electrify the world that the House of Windsor would be shaken to its foundations.
We constantly see him reacting to events as if Meghan actually were his mother. Witness the moment in New York in May, when Harry tried to have us believe that the taxi in which he and his wife were travelling was being chased in a nightmare re-enactment of the Paris underpass crash that killed Diana.
Anyone who has travelled in a yellow cab in the Big Apple’s gridlocked traffic knows that you would think yourself lucky to rise above 10mph. But, in Harry’s mind, he was there in the underpass all over again.
This is why those of us who love the monarchy need to worry about Omid Scobie. The Californian ‘slebs’ surrounding Harry and Meghan are republicans — they are meritocrats who disapprove of hereditary heads of state.
The King and the Princess of Wales are among the strongest defenders of the monarchy. If Scobie can make it appear to the public that they are crypto-racists, it’s a potentially devastating weapon in his republican armoury.
As it happens, the King, via the Prince’s Trust, and through his work in the Commonwealth, has probably done more than any world leader to promote understanding between people of different racial and religious backgrounds.
But that is precisely why it is so clever of the republicans to make out that, behind all the apparent empathy with different ethnic groups, the King was actually horrified by the thought of having a black grandchild.
The real worry, so Meghan or her publicists wanted us to believe, was that Archie might inherit his mother’s African-American pigmentation.
It’s important to remember that, despite the best efforts of some, we are not — yet — in a true ‘endgame’. The death of the Queen reminded not only the British, but the world, of the inherent value of a constitutional monarchy, based on parliamentary democracy but conserving the timeless values of the generations in the symbolic rituals of kingship.
The King, so far, has defied all the prophets of doom who predicted his reign would be a series of gaffes. He, and the monarchy, are popular. Indeed, only yesterday, in his role as an indefatigable campaigner on the environment, he gave the opening address at Cop28, the climate change conference.
If it is true he referred to Harry as ‘a fool’, everyone would understand why he said it. But the rift between Harry and his family is not just unseemly. It is dangerous. They should patch it up.
Omid Scobie is not going to bring down the monarchy on his own. But ongoing criticism of this kind will have a drip-drip effect.
Fast forward a few years through two or three royal crises to come and the popularity of the monarchy could well be at a low ebb.
Fast forward a little further to the point where Britain finds itself, perhaps, with a Left-wing government with a republican agenda. In those circumstances, a referendum on the future of the monarchy might well be won by the Roundheads rather than the Cavaliers.
That is why the Queen and Prince Philip worked in season and out of season to live and behave in a way that would make the monarchy respected. King Charles and the Prince and Princess of Wales are living in that good tradition.
But the feud with Harry and Meghan is a time bomb. The King and his closest advisers should defuse it as soon as they can.
How? By bringing about — however difficult this may be — a reconciliation and a restoration of the love between father and son.
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