Omid Scobie is back — and more emboldened than ever ― with his second book on members of the British royal family.
In “Endgame,” the Harper’s Bazaar royal editor at large voices aloud what is usually left unsaid in royal reporting. He intersperses his own private interactions with members of the monarchy and reveals behind-closed-doors talks he’s shared with palace aides and sources, all while letting audiences in on certain moments of regret in his own writing.
While his first book covered Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and their step back, “Endgame” is a searing look at key members of the now-slimmed-down British monarchy. Scobie sheds new light on who these royals reportedly really are, how they handle media and scandal, and what their approach is to crafting their public image.
Seeing as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have shared their story through many channels, including Harry’s own memoir published earlier this year, Scobie focuses more on the current king and the monarchy itself — and all that lies ahead.
Scobie aptly toes the line between informative and entertaining in his book. Though he takes on a more academic approach to exploring the complexities of the Commonwealth and “empire” and the cultural significance of the British monarchy within Britain, he is just as comfortable quoting Kim Kardashian and calling some royal strategies “dusty.”
There’s no shortage of juicy tidbits, as “Endgame” explores who which royal was reportedly behind evicting Harry and Meghan from Frogmore Cottage, discusses the internal handling of Prince Andrew’s continued fall from grace, and breaks down rumors about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s fallout with close friend Rose Hanbury.
The author also offers updates on King Charles’ relationship with his two sons, sheds light on whether William and Harry have any shot at reconciliation and examines the future of the king’s own relationship with the Prince of Wales, and how it appears to be changing already.
HuffPost spoke with the author last week ahead of the release of “Endgame,” which comes out Nov. 28.
What prompted you to write this book?
I felt that coming up to the Queen’s Jubilee at the time, that it seemed like an appropriate moment to kind of stop and take a step back and just look and see where the institution was in that moment and what the future may look like. Obviously, when I started piecing that idea together, I didn’t expect just a few months into it, the passing of the queen.
And so a book that was initially going to partly theorize about the future of the royal family ― [I] was able to report on it as it happened. And I felt like those years leading up to reign change were years in which so many major events happened, good and bad. And I think it had been so fast, so rapid, even just as someone that has all the time to cover the royals, as you know. It still felt, there was never enough time for that kind of deep-dive analysis on all of it to really fill in the gaps, maybe areas that we hadn’t really thought about, but also better understand why certain things happened in the way they did and what that means for the royal family today.
I think we often talk about optics and the royal family, and once upon a time at the height of the Queen’s reign, I think that this was an institution that represented the best of British traditional family values. But the question is, do they still uphold those same ethics, morals, and values in the work, not just in the work that they do, but in their actions with each other and the people around them? And as we’ve seen ― with a number of the events that have happened recently ― is it hasn’t been the case. So listen, it’s a topic that I think a lot of people find it easier to avoid. But I personally want to live in a world where as a democratic country with a free press, there is a freedom and an ability to scrutinize this publicly funded institution in the same way we would politics or the British government.
For people who are expecting something like your first book ― “Finding Freedom,” written with Carolyn Durand ― they will find that this book is quite different.
“Finding Freedom” was a first book. I think for all its flaws in places, it still set out to tell the story of two people whose story hadn’t been heard at that point. That even in attempts to report on it fairly or thoroughly, it was sort of washed out by the noise of rampant tabloid press in the U.K. and so on. And so “Finding Freedom” felt like the right place for that.
But as it was put together, I did feel like there were certain areas I would love to have gone in further: the deeper understanding of that relationship between the royals and the press and the issue of race in “Finding Freedom.” We touched on it with regards to Meghan and her experiences, but it’s so much more than Meghan. This is about an institution that sits at the heart of diverse Britain in 2023 and the predominantly Black and brown Commonwealth.
And again, the same topics keep coming up and again and again in the coverage around the history of slavery, around the issue of race and the family to this day, unconscious bias, lack of diversity in the households. And again, I just wanted to have a space in which I could dive into them in these. And I think also just as a reporter, my journalistic skills have matured and evolved over time, and I’ve learned more about how to cover and tell a story in the last five years than any other time in my life. And I wanted to be able to show that in this book as well, that there was growth and maturity when it came to telling such a serious story ― a story in which I knew or hope will sit at the heart of the conversations that people are now comfortable having about the future and purpose and relevancy of the royal family.
I want to expand more on that in my questions below, but I did notice one similarity between “Finding Freedom” and “Endgame,” which is there is another urine reference. We’ve got a Michael Fawcett moment and we’ve got a Meghan moment in Botswana [in “Finding Freedom”] and there’s Tampongate talk abound. There’s bodily fluids again!
I can’t take any credit for the Fawcett story, as it’s famous lore. But yeah, listen, I think that you’ve got to go into the warts and all of it. Ultimately, these are stories of human beings and family and there’s moments to be proud of, moments to laugh at, moments to be ashamed of. I think that one can only tell a fair and accurate story if all of those elements are present.
That’s what I liked about “Endgame.” Even when you’re critical of certain parts of the monarchy and people, I enjoyed the moments where you were also at the queen’s funeral or the coronation and write that it would just be dishonest for you to say that you didn’t grasp the huge weight of this moment, and things like that. And I think that adds a lot of color, seeing both sides of your experience.
I think that’s often so lost in reporting or media coverage in general. The nuance, or the kind of duality, of any situation. One can be critical of the institution and be pushy in my reporting at times. But at the same time, I can still care about it and have elements of the royal family and its legacy in Britain that I’m really proud of. That I can still talk the work that the queen did and how much impact that’s had, not just on me, but people across the country and around the world and at the same time be critical of other things. All of those things can exist in one place. One doesn’t have to be a royalist or a hater, which I’m neither.
Going back to your personal experience, you write in the book about getting a phone call from Meghan, and you talk about socializing with William and Kate. What was it like to really share your own observations and interactions to this degree for the first time in your reporting?
Nerve-wracking, because these are moments that one often keeps to themselves. I think partly so much has been said or assumed or written about my supposed relationships or whatever with royal family members, particularly Harry and Meghan. And I wanted to make it really clear ― and hopefully it’s the last time I say it ― that there’s no truth in me being friends with them. But in order to talk about a phone call from Meghan out of the blue, I have to also talk about my experiences with William and Kate to make people understand that this is the reality of being so in that bubble when you’re covering the royals. That you do have those intimate moments or those private moments with members of the family. And I know that’s been the case for other royal correspondents too, who have perhaps lost a family member and had a member of the royal family take them to one side and see if they’re OK because they’ve heard the news. Because we are ultimately around these people all the time.
Royal reporters share their insights in the book, too. Was anyone hesitant to work with you on the book?
I would say that there is a group, a large swath of the [royal] rota that don’t even want to look at me in the eye at this point, partly because some of the things they’ve written about me or perceptions about me or whatever it is, protectiveness over the family, who knows. But I also realized in writing this book, there were things that perhaps some individuals might’ve wanted to report, but — and wouldn’t it be great to be able to sit down with some of those people who perhaps see longer game in doing all of this than myself, that may not want to put something out there or in their coverage that can in here? Obviously vetted in exactly the same way I would with anything else. But, yeah, people want to assume that everything in this book — I think I’ve seen, there was an article or someone had written something that was, “This is Meghan’s diary, he’s just rewritten it” or something.
But it also couldn’t be further from the truth, because I’ve literally gone to anyone possible that could be a source on this to just pick their brains. Some people, I’ve just sat with journalists and just had conversations about wanting to do this book — and they have not been able to offer me anything for it — but just to be able to get the input of others because I wanted this book to be all-encompassing. I wanted it to be fair and balanced. And to do that, you can’t operate in a complete silo. Even you and I spoke several times in the process and you know some of the frustrations I had, the worries I had, and so on. On a project like this, you can’t be a total lone ranger.
You talk about how there is the promise of Charles and William doing more when it comes to the Commonwealth in the next few years. Who do you think will be the first royal to really address slavery or reparations in a direct way, or apologize if in the cards?
I think we’ve seen Charles speak in really abstract terms in Barbados and more recently in Kenya about the kind of “atrocities of the past.” And while it’s baby steps, it’s far from what I think is expected in this day and age. One only needs to look over to King Willem in the Netherlands and the effort that a monarch there has made to not only address the family’s history and his ancestors’ involvement in the slave industry, but also acknowledge how much the family has benefited from that since and be sincerely apologetic for it. And then go on to collaborate with the government to launch a multimillion-euro research project looking into not only the links of the past and the family’s true involvement in all of these things on a granular level, but also how that’s impacted Dutch society today.
What do the remnants look like today? How does it impact people of color today? And I think that that is such a mature and admirable way of confronting what is a really uncomfortable topic. But I also understand that to admit, to take some accountability in the ancestral role within it, is to also admit that what exists today has been built on the backs of slaves. That wealth of mass comes from this very dark and horrific place. And if one admits to that, the question comes, well, should you still have it? And so I understand why there is this hesitance to get involved. They are stuck between a rock and hard place. I also don’t think that one should blame current living royals for decisions made by [ancestors], but that’s family history for you. If I found out that Jack the Ripper was my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather and victims of the family came forward, the living victims or the ancestors affected by that, of course I’d be horrified and apologetic and it would hang over me for the rest of my life even if I had nothing to do with it.
So I think this indifference, this almost kind of arrogant attitude towards, “Well, it’s not for us to deal with,” which is only then emboldened by the attitudes of the kind of right-wing British media who will have the backs of these opinions doesn’t help them. When you look at the broader picture, which is the incredibly diverse Britain and the predominantly mixed and Black and brown Commonwealth, it’s noticed. And it’s noticed even moreso after the only woman of color to set foot into that family was treated appallingly and left literally wanting to take her own life.
Going off of that, you mentioned a letter between Charles and Meghan that discusses race in the book. You also address rumors around William and Kate’s marriage. While writing about both of these stories, you say something like “Laws in the United Kingdom prevent me from reporting who they were” or talking about this further. What was it like tackling these subjects for you?
For the details on the book about the letters between Charles and Meghan, my personal interest with that was I felt that we as a public were given this huge bombshell by [Harry and Meghan] in an interview with Oprah that went out to the entire planet and then we were expected to never want to know any more about it. It seemed insane to me. And then the Netflix series came, “Spare” came, and yet again, it’s not brought up. And I was really confused by this sort of acting like it never came up or never happened. It seemed bizarre to me. So I wanted to get to the bottom of it. We knew it was The Telegraph that had initially reported that there had been letters between Charles and Meghan, but we didn’t know much beyond that.
So I wanted to kind of get to the bottom of it. Thankfully, with these things, a lot of eyes pass over this kind of correspondence when you are part of such a big establishment. And so to discover that though after these letters, neither Meghan nor Charles saw eye-to-eye on the matter. They both were able to express how they felt with regards to what was said. In Meghan’s case, it was seen as unconscious bias. It was seen as something unpleasant that needed to be addressed and tackled. And then on Charles’ side, there was a sort of a horror that it had been taken in such a way. But at the same time, the two names inside that letter ― that isn’t addressed. The parties involved haven’t all spoken with Meghan about what happened. And again, it’s that sort of cold indifference, the privilege of thinking you can just not face up to something that had happened, is quite astonishing to me. And so when you put that side-by-side with the issues around slavery and the colonial history of the family, it all makes sense. It all speaks volumes to the characters and the values at play.
With William and Kate, whilst I don’t talk about their marriage, the way it’s presented in the book is the rumors around this fallout between William and Kate and Rose Hanbury, which started on the pages of The Sun newspaper. And again, I felt like we had this blast of hot and hysterical coverage in the tabloids and it just disappeared. And listen, I’m a journalist, I want to know what’s going on. And I was writing “Finding Freedom” at the time, and I remember that moment where it was pitched to me by William’s head of comms like, “Why don’t you give your book to this journalist at The Sun or give the exclusive to this journalist at The Sun?” And of course I could see it right through it because at the same time, we had just had conversations about the severity of these rumors and all the things that was stressing out that household at the time.
So I think it is important to see how these things are handled behind the scenes. And obviously the huge chain of events that followed ultimately led to Harry losing his financial support. These are stories that we don’t get to hear. So when we hear about the fallout of Harry and Meghan and we’re told that, well, Meghan used an air freshener in St. George’s Chapel or whatever it is ― these are not the stories, these are distractions. And so I wanted to get into the nitty-gritty of all of this, even if for me, it was uncomfortable and nerve-wracking.
What do you think is the singular biggest bombshell in your book?
That’s a good question. I mean, I’ll say I never set out to deliver bombshells. And you hear those terms like “launching a truth bomb” and “grenade.”
For me, my satisfaction came from piecing together fragmented stories that we’ve had over the years. I think the one that was most personally satisfying was the kind of anatomizing the treatment of the Rose Hanbury fallout rumor and all that came with it. And be able to follow that entire story right up until the moment Harry receives the confirmation from Buckingham Palace that his finances have been coming to an end after having taken it to the top that he wanted to make a complaint about this member of staff who had been seemingly leaking stories and information about them to stop something else in its tracks.
Those are the things that happened behind the scenes that I think help us understand why a situation for Harry and Meghan may have been untenable, why it happened so quickly. I hear people say, well, they should have given it longer. They should have given it a chance. But when you’re really up against this type of play, you can then understand why two people ran away and never looked back.
What did you find the most difficult to report on in the book?
There is a persistent rumor that I will never be able to shift away from that I’m her friend, which is obviously not true. So when I started to reach out to some of the contacts and sources I had in her world, specifically her world, friends of, or whoever that had helped with things in the past, there was this feeling of, A, she’s moved on from that. We don’t want to have anything to do with it. But also we don’t want to get into another situation where she’s going to be accused of being your friend and delivering things to you or whatever nonsense approach papers say. So, actually, I found those areas quite difficult because of how it’s written about, because of the accusations that are made despite them not being true. So yeah, I’ve had some hurdles of my own simply just because of the coverage about me and the way I’m perceived.
You say in the book that Charles and Harry are on some sort of path to communication, that there is communication there.
There’s a line there. There’s clearly some warmth and respect, which we never thought that would happen. So we’ve come somewhere. And obviously more recently the news of the birthday phone call [for King Charles’ 75th birthday], which didn’t surprise me because I’d sort of followed these earlier calls between Harry and his father throughout the book.
People focus a lot on Harry and Charles’ relationship, and not always Charles and William. In your book, you talk about how William and Charles were in lockstep, and now we’re going to see different paths for them. What do you think their relationship will look like in the future?
It’s interesting because, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but in recent months it’s felt like despite the fact we’ve got a leaner lineup of working royals than ever, engagements clash over each other, things don’t have the ability to kind of shine on their own. And it feels like ― and certainly looks like ― that both Charles and William operating in complete silos, which is something that the queen never did.
For the queen, it was never about the queen, it was always about what she stood for. She had this really kind of wide-vision view of the crown and the institution. And so media coverage and polls and all the rest of it, it didn’t mean anything to her. She didn’t pay attention to it, never got involved in it. It was the smartest approach to the job. Here, you’ve got two men really consumed with their images, their PR and everything that comes with it, operating in complete echo chambers separate from one another.
And I think we’ve seen already in some of the briefings that have come out from Kensington Palace days after the coronation, “William will do it differently,” “his way” and all the rest so fast. “Moving forwards it will be the Cambridge way,” and “when William becomes king, it will be X, Y and Z.” And then more recently, his comments in Singapore about bringing impacts and purpose to the work rather than just highlighting ― this is not lockstep to me. This is a widening gap between father and son. And given that Charles replaced the most popular woman in the world with himself, someone who was once one of the least popular men in the world, now somewhat popular but not enough, he could really do with the support of those popular ones around him. And I don’t see the engagements with Charles and William together. I don’t see that kind of coming together that perhaps the Institution could do with.
What do you think is the future of the relationship between the royals and the media? Do you think there will be any changes?
I do wonder. It feels like we are slowly entering an era where briefing and scheming may not be the kind of de facto go-to response. Partly because so much of it has been put out in the open. I think that Harry, talking about it in Oprah and even in “Spare” and really laying it all out, has seen quite a change already within the attitudes of royal household. I hear from within the royal rota that they get frustrated that those stories don’t come through as thick and fast as they used to.
Things have definitely changed. And I remember when William took on a new head of communications, the plan moving forward was to not have favorites within the press, not to leak information that wasn’t going to be shared with everyone. I think this more transparent approach will do them well in the long run because, as we’ve seen, those games behind the scenes actually caused irreparable damage between Harry and William. Which is such a shame, because once upon a time, William hated the press more than anyone in that family. And they always said to each other, they would never get involved in those games.
And here we are. So I think transparency is always going to be the thing that will help them in the long run. And it’s what we expect from our public figures these days. We don’t want the smoke and mirrors, and it clearly hasn’t worked that well for them in recent years either.
Have you heard anything about how the royals are receiving this book?
I have heard and been told by a few people that there are nerves within the royal household about the contents of the book. And listen, I completely understand that. It’s the fear of the unknown. I would be nervous too. At the same time, it’s also not their first time at this rodeo. I am sure they were even more nervous before the release of “Spare” and all the other stuff. So this is par for the course for them. It’s sort of an annual outing to be nervous about something dropping in the press.
What do you think the response really within the royal media will be?
I think there’ll of course be a very defensive response, that this is a quote-unquote “attack on the royal family” and “how dare I” and “how dare Meg’s friend” or whatever is it that they’ll say. The reality is that I am not a royalist, but I’m also not a republican. I do see the value in the royal family. I’ve been proud of the royal family at times. I really enjoyed covering the royal family over the years.
But there have also been moments in which I thought, I’m not sure if this is working, or I’m not sure how appropriate that is, or is that behavior reflective of what it is that’s being promoted here? Whatever it’ll be. And I do think to be able to cover a story, one must shine a light in the darkest places, even if that makes people feel uncomfortable. Even if that means the royalists want to burn this book in the streets.
My only advice would be to actually stop and take a look at it rather than read what the tabloids have to say about it. Because it’s actually a very different book. And I think that there’s a lot that can be learned from the lessons within this book that could potentially create a much better future for The Firm.
Questions and responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.