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TUESDAY 27  FEBRUARY 2024

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Did Scobie name Charles and Kate out of malice
or was it just a cockup?

So, Omid Scobie. Do you believe him?

 

Was it really a mishap that the names of the two allegedly racist Royals – King Charles and the Princess of Wales – were printed in the Dutch edition of Scobie’s book Endgame, or is he being disingenuous?

 

Did his stomach “flip” when he discovered it had happened, as he claims in the i newspaper; or did he take another sip of his iced coffee and think: “Job done.”

 

Scobie had used the names in an early draft, which his agent reportedly sent to the Netherlands publisher Xander so that the book could be translated into Dutch.

 

A final approved version, without the names, followed but was not used. Conspiracy or cock-up?

 

Thousands of copies alleging that Charles and Kate speculated about the skin colour of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s unborn son Archie were pulled in the Netherlands and Belgium.

 

The Palace has said it is exploring all options regarding legal action. The King, however, has already seemed to shrug it off, so my guess is that Mr Justice Cocklecarrot will not be stirred from his slumber.

 

And anyway, does anybody but news editors give a toss? Most people I know think it perfectly natural to wonder what colour a baby of mixed-race parentage will turn out to be, despite the plaintive looks to camera of Meghan and her aghast interviewer Oprah Winfrey.

 

I haven’t seen the sales figures but if the naming was a stunt, it probably did its job. It gained some precious column inches in the newspapers.

 

Scobie, though, remains an enigma. Is he a smart, ruthless manipulator, operating as a lone wolf away from the Press pack, breaking stories they cannot; or is he being used by the Sussexes, a useful idiot to tarnish the Royal Family, into which Meghan never fitted?

 

And this is where it gets difficult to read. For between them, Meghan and Scobie – dupe, or not – have redefined the rules of the game.

 

Meghan the actress was cast in a Hollywood fairytale with her infatuated lover Harry. When they married, she would be a Princess, rich, famous and adored; they would have footmen and equerries and cooks and “people” (in Hollywood parlance) to arrange their diaries.

 

What she didn’t understand – and how could she? – was that her life would be dull, restricted and largely meaningless as the wife of The Spare.

 

She probably resented playing second fiddle to Kate, now the Princess of Wales. If Harry did not already feel the same way, she convinced him he should. And off they went, to seek vindication and fulfilment as well as fame and fortune in California.

 

They seem to have decided on a bit of payback, too. And this is where Scobie, 42 (but going on 12 to judge by the pictures) came in.

 

For a journalist, he has a curious modus operandi. He told broadcaster James O’Brien, formerly of this parish, that he liked to cultivate a long-term friendship, or relationship with the celebrities he wanted to write about.

 

“I’m always thinking, what story do I want in six months’ time, in 12 months’ time, how do I get there? So it lands you in positions where you end up that Kim Kardashian is your source and you’re emailing her directly and she’s helping out stories for US Weekly,” Scobie said on O’Brien’s Full Disclosure podcast.

 

“In fact, she was a great example of someone who really gets it, because she would send over an email and it would say ‘Kim says’ – which was her quote – and ‘a source says’ underneath.”

 

Scobie claimed this was how it worked in his dealings with Kensington Palace when he was writing Finding Freedom, his first book (with Carolyn Durand) on the origins of the rift between Harry and Meghan and the rest of the Royal Family.

 

“I remember those emails where there was an aide that would send us responses to all the questions and in red it was what you could use for sourced quotes and then in another colour it was just guidance,” he told O’Brien.

 

During Meghan’s 2020 privacy case against the Mail on Sunday, it emerged that she and Harry had told their then Director of Communications to brief authors Scobie and Durand.

 

This isn’t how real journalists work. It is how Hollywood publicity agents operate. It’s pure PR.

 

Our dear, departed friend Ashley Walton, would have been embarrassed by such sycophantic nonsense. He and his colleagues on the Royal beat, who included the Daily Mirror’s James Whitaker and our own Paul Callan, had an arms’ length relationship with the Windsor clan.

 

The older Royals were used to the scrutiny and seldom lowered their guard. But the antics of the two new brides, Lady Diana Spencer and Sarah Ferguson – the first people to blow the cobwebs off the Royal Family for a generation – provided solid gold copy.

 

So the pack would follow Charles and Diana and Andrew and Fergie from the Klosters ski slopes to polo fields to swanky restaurants, and sometimes even to romantic assignations, hoping for a story to justify their considerable expenses. They cultivated contacts among Palace servants, Royal aides, police close protection officers, childhood friends.

 

They were ever alert for the mask to drop, the slightest slip-up – a fall on the piste, a practical joke played on a friend, a marital indiscretion. These were all fair game.

 

Remember when Diana and Fergie prodded the bottoms of fellow racegoers at Royal Ascot with their umbrellas? Fergie and her Texan beau sucking her toes? Diana, alone and forlorn against the majestic backdrop of the Taj Mahal?

 

Or Diana dancing with John Travolta, star of Saturday Night Fever, at a White House gala dinner with President Ronald Reagan, which was surreptitiously witnessed by Ashley Walton crouching among the guests.

 

Or the interview with the BBC’s Martin Bashir when Diana revealed: “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

 

Every one of these was 24 carat.

 

And now? Scobie’s inane insights into the carefully crafted brand that is the Sussexes.

 

Sun photographer Arthur Edwards, who snapped the Royals for 45 years, says: “It is difficult to believe anything in Omid Scobie’s scandal plagued book.”

 

So, Omid Scobie. Do you believe him?


RICHARD DISMORE


12 December 2023