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Royal book at centre of racism row barely stirs a ripple on London streets

<span>Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer</span>
Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

In the last two centuries London’s oldest bookshop, Hatchards on Piccadilly, has sold stories of royal scandals, ructions and rifts.

The latest book in the royal genre, Endgame by journalist Omid Scobie, was at the centre of a media frenzy for most of last week, but was barely causing a ripple among shoppers this weekend. It was not on prominent display at the five-storey bookstore, which has royal warrants. The single copy had been put aside on order. At the nearby Waterstones, about 14 copies were stacked on a table near the entrance, but there was limited interest there too.

The book by a journalist who is viewed by many as a cheerleader for Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex has received some scathing reviews, with the Evening Standard describing it as an “absolute turkey”. The Washington Post observed that “the royal tea spilled here isn’t exactly hot”. But thanks to its rehashing of a story about whether two members of the royal family discussed the potential skin colour of Harry and Meghan’s first child, it has prompted a wave of front-page headlines.

At Hatchards, many shoppers had not heard of the book and most of those who had did not intend to buy it. Tom Manson, 40, a chartered surveyor from Clitheroe, Lancashire, said he considered coverage of the book “salacious nonsense”.

He said the royal family were in an impossible position over the row about allegations of remarks about the skin colour of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s unborn son. “They are in a no-win situation,” said Manson. “They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. We will never know what people did or did not do, and can we be bothered?”

The Dutch version of the book was pulled from the shelves last week, after naming King Charles and the Princess of Wales for taking part in conversations about Prince Archie before his birth.

Jo Lancaster, 36, a lawyer, who lives near Crawley, West Sussex, said: “There are things going on that are much more important than who said what in a conversation in the royal family. It is sensationalism.”

James Gourlay, 35, an investment adviser from south London, said he would not buy the book, but felt he had gleaned its key points from media coverage and social media. “You get enough snippets through social media to get the gist,” he said.

Gourlay said he supported Prince Harry and Meghan. He said: “I really like Prince Harry. I think he has done incredibly good work. They seem decent people. I think [Meghan] is genuine and she came into a tough environment.”

Martin Kurpiel, 27, and Dominika Dycewicz, 24, who are from Wrocław, Poland, and were also among the sightseers at Buckingham Palace, said it was on their “bucket list” to see the palace.

Kurpiel said: “It’s better to see in person. The photographs do not convey the power of it.” The couple said they were watching Netflix series The Crown and would be keen to read a new book on the royal family.

Jill Raison, 27, an interior designer from Kingston, Ontario, and Kristen Lund, 27, from Victoria, British Columbia, said they were not aware of the book, but were keen to read it. Raison said: “In Canada, we are very proud of Prince Harry and Meghan.”

The pair, who were en route to Buckingham Palace, said the row over the remarks involving racism or unconscious bias was “ridiculous”. Lund, who is of Chinese and Danish heritage, said relatives had talked about what she would look like before she was born, but she did not consider those remarks racist. “They were curious,” she said. “But you do have to be careful how people perceive things.”

The Observer eventually found one reader – or rather, listener. Amy Lund, 62, from Salt Lake City, Utah, said she had bought the book on Audible and was a fan. She said she had found it insightful, shedding new light on the relationship between King Charles and Prince William. “I am enjoying it very much,” she said.

Amy’s husband, James Lund, 62, said the media had been “brutal” in its coverage of Harry and Meghan. He said Meghan could have helped boost Britain’s reputation around the world.

“The British media have been unfair,” he said. “She could have been a wonderful asset for the Commonwealth. We are astounded no one seems to have embraced that.”

At Buckingham Palace , yesterday morning most visitors the Observer spoke to had not heard of the new book. Bas Den Hartogh, 27, from the Netherlands, who works in the gaming industry, said he felt sympathy for Harry and Meghan. He said: “I think it has been hard for them. There is a lot of pressure for a new member of the royal family and it’s sad they had to move away.”

Scobie previously co-authored the book Finding Freedom, about Harry and Meghan. It emerged in her court case against Associated Newspapers Limited, the publisher of the Mail on Sunday, over a publication of a personal letter, that her press secretary had briefed the authors. Scobie has been keen to stress his new book, described by publisher HarperCollins as a “penetrating investigation”, is about the wider royal family.

“I’m not ‘Meg’s pal’, Scobie wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “The Sussexes have nothing to do with it.”

Catherine Mayer, author of Charles: The Heart of a King, said she did not consider Endgame would have any immediate impact on the royal family. “I don’t think this moves the story on,” she said. “People who believe there was racism will merely see this as confirmation and people who think there was a put up job by the Sussexes will see this as further evidence of their machinations.”