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Omid Scobie Endgame review: ‘The real royal villain is William’

It’s the eagerly awaited inside story of royal rivalries at the heart of the House of Windsor, and Anna Pasternak, the first to review it, discovers that the author with unique access to Harry and Meghan is unafraid of burning bridges to reveal his truth about the state of the monarchy

Anna Pasternak
Monday 27 November 2023 10:49 GMT
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Crown duels: Omid Scobie (centre) packs ‘Endgame’ with gems about the bilious backbiting among the royal family
Crown duels: Omid Scobie (centre) packs ‘Endgame’ with gems about the bilious backbiting among the royal family (Calder Publicity/HarperCollins/Getty/Luke Fontana)

If you are in mourning as The Crown ends and wonder where to get your next fix of royal drama, Omid Scobie, the bestselling author of Finding Freedom, may have made your Christmas. In his new book, Endgame, which chronicles a dysfunctional monarchy limping along, Scobie is here to dish up some fresh new riveting claims, including that King Charles III and Prince William are not as united as we might have believed, the Princess of Wales visibly shivers at the mere mention of Meghan’s name and (thanks to elocution lesson) now sounds posher than her husband – a prince who is cast as an irascible and controlling heir. Scobie seals his reputation as a man on a mission: to expose a monarchy that, he believes, is rotting at its foundations.

Of course, Scobie has been written off as Meghan and Harry’s mouthpiece, yet it did him no harm as Finding Freedom sold just shy of half a million copies. And the fact that the former royal correspondent is now an outsider, not bound by any usual press pack rules, means he has some interesting things to say. “For four years, some of the most damaging in Windsor history, I witnessed the full scope of the deceptions, malice, and defensive posturing of an unstable family business and an institution in decline,” he writes. “I saw just how far they would go to save their own skin… and I’ve witnessed the human damage done because of it.”

Omid Scobie claims that King Charles is getting increasingly irritated with his eldest son who is keen to get things done ‘the Cambridge way’
Omid Scobie claims that King Charles is getting increasingly irritated with his eldest son who is keen to get things done ‘the Cambridge way’ (Getty )

He is not out to flatter for access in Endgame and readily acknowledges that “parts of this book will burn my bridges for good”. But if he’s going, he’s not going quietly. Scobie doesn’t hold back in his revelations that King Charles and Prince William are not as united as we may believe and behind the scenes “long gone is that ‘lockstep’ narrative the Palace once pushed”. Unlike Charles, who never stepped on his mother’s toes, aides told Scobie that William is champing at Charles’s heels. “He’s not giving his father the same space Charles did with the Queen. There’s no time for that.”

Charles was “quietly annoyed” by William announcing his Earthshot environmental initiative, in October 2020. A Clarence House source told Scobie that Charles “had hoped that William would want to involve his father or at least credit him for inspiring him to take on this role, but instead it was as if [Charles’s environmentalism] didn’t even exist”. Similarly, William chose to sit down for a rare interview with The Sunday Times scheduled for publication the day after Charles’s first Trooping the Colour parade, “essentially wiping any coverage of the special moment off the front page”.

An insider in Charles’s camp is quoted as saying: “Contrary to public belief, [Charles] leads with his head and his heart. [William] is colder in that respect. He just wants to get the job done and has no problem taking prisoners along the way.”

Scobie paints William as an ambitious prince, who is quick to anger and wants to “rip up” the royal institution’s rulebook and do things “the Cambridge way”. Apparently, Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace “are now hives of competing agendas and different ideas about how to modernise”. A different war of the Waleses from the Eighties, when Charles and Diana’s respective houses were pushing for ascendancy in the press.

Another source tells Scobie that when it comes to William, while he “respects his father … their views, their outlooks are very different and I can see that becoming an issue over the years ahead”.

Charles, Scobie believes, like his late mother, is also led by his heart over his brother, Prince Andrew. “Stonewalling and expelling his son came easy enough,” writes Scobie of Harry, “although it’s a different story with his own brother.” We are told that during the most alarming moments of Andrew’s downfall, Charles had sleepless nights. “Charles was tearful over fears for the shamed duke’s mental health.” It was “William who set the wheels in motion” although the Queen was the “official face of Andrew’s reckoning”, which Charles “didn’t want any part of”.

King Charles emerges as a much warmer figure than his irascible son and heir Prince William
King Charles emerges as a much warmer figure than his irascible son and heir Prince William (Getty)

And if Charles comes across as warmer than William, Prince Edward also appears kind in this account of dog-eat-dog dire family dynamics. Post the publication of Harry’s inflammatory memoir, Spare, “Prince Edward was one of the few who felt Charles should ‘properly speak’ with his son and try to move on.”

To my surprise, this is a pacey, well-written account of where the modern monarchy could be heading if it doesn’t adapt and appeal to a new generation. It’s familiar territory to Tina Brown’s The Palace Papers in that it methodically charts how and why each family member, apart from the late Queen, risks slowly bringing the curtain down on an archaic institution if they are not careful.

While Scobie is unfailingly sympathetic to the Sussexes – he does not hold them accountable for anything – he does not, as I had anticipated, demonise Charles or denounce Camilla. I was expecting something different – him possibly laying into evil monarch King Charles and wicked stepmother, Queen Camilla. The real royal villain here is William.

Race and the royals form a lengthy chapter. Two years on from when Meghan told Oprah that “concerns” were raised by a member of the royal family over what Archie’s skin colour might be, apparently, no one but Charles has addressed the incident since. Scobie writes that Charles and Meghan had a meaningful correspondence in which he wanted to reassure the duchess that he felt there was no ill will or casual prejudice present when the two people had made their comments. Charles said that Harry should discuss his feelings with his brother but in contrast, it is never mentioned again by William.

Before Megxit: Omid Scobie believes the royal family still had a unique opportunity to address its ‘race problem’
Before Megxit: Omid Scobie believes the royal family still had a unique opportunity to address its ‘race problem’ (PA)

Scobie was part of the press pack that witnessed Michelle and Barack Obama meet William and Kate at Kensington Palace in 2017, where Aelbert Cuyp’s The N***o Page hung on their drawing room wall. Instead of removing the painting, a giant lamp and plant pot were “hastily plonked in front of the 1660 painting to obscure the brass plate featuring the painting’s offensive title”.

He also outlines the racist backlash that he himself has received as a “British-Iranian” writer championing Meghan. “F*** off back home P**i” and “M16 should keep an eye on this terrorist” give a flavour of the public abuse he received. While he recognises that William did act decisively over the race scandal incident with Lady Susan Hussey, after her inappropriate comments to Ngozi Fulani at Buckingham Palace, by swiftly denouncing his octogenarian godmother, promising change, Scobie doesn’t hesitate to question the pace of it. In 2023, only 9.7 per cent of employees at Buckingham Palace are from ethnic minorities, while Kensington Palace employs 16.3 per cent, he notes.

One of the most poignant scenes comes when Scobie covers the events following Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September 2022. While the battle of the warring brothers, William and Harry, has been well documented, mostly by Harry himself, Scobie describes how Harry was “left to fend for himself” to get to Balmoral. Despite available seats on William’s private jet, “William ignored him”. Only his cousin Eugenie looped him in on events. By the time Harry got to Balmoral, alone, he discovered that it had been announced on the news that his grandmother had died. Charles, Camilla, and William had left Balmoral to spend the night at Birkhall. Brutal.

Scobie was told that Kate has jokingly shuddered at the mention of Meghan’s name
Scobie was told that Kate has jokingly shuddered at the mention of Meghan’s name (Getty)

Scobie also confirms that Kate and Meghan were never close. Kate is described as “cold if she doesn’t like someone” by a source. Of Meghan, “she wasn’t a fan, no”. Another source added: “She spent more time talking about Meghan than talking to her.” No big reveal here, although Scobie writes that on recent occasions, Kate “has jokingly shivered when Meghan’s name has come up”. There is, however, a very humanising Kate anecdote from 2016, when Scobie was the only royal reporter accompanying William and Kate to India’s Kaziranga National Park to spot the elusive one-horned rhino. They did encounter one, who stopped to “poop”. Scobie watched our future queen “in a fit of muted giggles”.

Scobie thinks that Kate is perfect in the mould of the future queen, “an institutional dream come true” having “successfully sublimated her authentic self, becoming an enigma to the public and perhaps even herself”. Whereas Meghan, some palace staff believed, “deserved what was coming to her” for making their lives “hell” during the wedding planning. This, Scobie explains, was down to a combination of her “not conforming with how women marrying into the family are expected to behave and certain individuals just being lazy”.

Scobie points out that Kate has had “several rounds of elocution lessons” and now sounds “posher” than her husband. And he waspishly writes out that you’ll be unlikely to read in any British newspaper that Kate has had “five different private secretaries in six years” adding that one found the role “uninspiring and frustrating”.

When it comes to the rumours surrounding the Waleses and the Marchioness of Cholmondeley, he tiptoes around the subject, detailing how much The Sun knew of the alleged falling-out between Rose Hanbury and Kate and what they didn’t print. William was allegedly furious and his “take it on the chin” mentality shifted swiftly to “make this go away”. An aide reported that due to William’s temper, “you don’t want to be the bearer of bad news”.

While the Sussexes have often been accused of leaking to the press, the Faustian pact between the palace and the press is clearly set out. One former editor tells Scobie that they avoided writing about William because it was “too difficult” and “there was a nice stream of Harry and Meghan stories coming in so [the editors] are happy.”

Scobie’s book is out next week
Scobie’s book is out next week (Calder Publicity/HarperCollins)

The full story of William and Kate’s £73-a-head Flybe flight from Norwich to Aberdeen – excellent press optics in the wake of Harry and Meghan’s 2019 summer of private jet setting – also wasn’t revealed, according to Scobie. What wasn’t included in this “PR gamesmanship” was that the scheduled flight that the Cambridges booked did not have the Flybe logo on the side. So an empty properly branded aircraft was sent from the headquarters in Humberside, 123 miles north of Norwich. The plane returned empty to Humberside after the Cambridges and the royal family disembarked in Aberdeen; the two empty flights released over four and a half tons of carbon emissions.

By pointing fingers at the press pack he was once part of, Scobie fully anticipates that he and his book will be discredited in the British media. He is probably right, and he will certainly not be helped by the fact that he paints Meghan and Harry in a relentless saintly light. Harry is very much presented as the happy prince in his happy place “biking and hiking and taking ice-baths”; mornings are “for family only – no staff” and the hands-on parents “take turns in school drop-offs and pick-ups every day”. Scobie’s only criticism is their unwise commercial deals that were made in haste.

Still, no matter how much eye-rolling there is in the UK, I predict Endgame will fly off the shelves in the US. It will be a shame if he is pilloried here because while Endgame may not be as explosive as, say, Andrew Morton’s Diana: Her True Story,it is crammed with gripping gems about the bilious backbiting among the royal family. When he writes of waning interest in the monarchy, he cites the fact that Elton John and Harry Styles turned down performing at the Coronation Concert in May, despite appearing at previous royal concerts. “In our era of celebrity obsession and pop culture icons, if Elton and Harry Styles can’t be bothered, why should we?”

‘Endgame: Inside the Royal Family and the Monarchy’s Fight for Survival’ by Omid Scobie is published by HQ, HarperCollins, on 28 November in hardback, eBook and audiobook

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