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Royals and race: inquiry under way into naming of Charles and Catherine in new book

<span>Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA</span>
Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

A royal author has said an investigation is under way into how the Dutch version of his new book named two senior members of the British royal family alleged to have discussed the skin colour of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s unborn son.

In an edition that has now been withdrawn from bookshelves, King Charles and the Princess of Wales were named as taking part in conversations about Prince Archie before his birth, according to allegations in the book that have been broadcast on TV programmes in the UK and the Netherlands.

The book claims conversations about Archie related to how it opened up discussions about whether there was “unconscious bias” in the royal family.

Buckingham Palace declined to respond on Thursday. “It is not something we are going to comment on,” a spokesperson told the Guardian.

The broadcaster Piers Morgan used his TalkTV show on Wednesday to name the royals mentioned in a now pulled and pulped translated version of Omid Scobie’s book Endgame: Inside the Royal Family and the Monarchy’s Fight for Survival.

Speaking to ITV’s This Morning on Thursday, Scobie insisted he had “never submitted a book that had their names in it”, and could only talk about the English version that he wrote.

He said he had never used the word “racist”, and that his book referred to “unconscious bias”. He claimed other Fleet Street journalists had “known those names for a long time”.

He said the inclusion of the names was “still being investigated right now. I wrote and edited the English version of the book with one publisher. That then gets licensed to other publishers. I obviously can’t speak Italian, German, French, Dutch or any of the other languages. So the only time you hear about the book is once it’s come out in the public domain.

“I am as frustrated as everyone else. The reality is, though, that this is information that is not privy just to me. Journalists across Fleet Street have known those names for a long time. We’ve all followed a sort of code of conduct when it comes to talking about it.”

He said the Dutch book was immediately rescinded and was being reprinted: “I’m glad to hear so.”

Asked if he was upset about the names appearing, he said: “I have never submitted a book that had their names in it. So I can only talk about my version. I’m obviously frustrated, but I wouldn’t say I’m upset about it because, to be honest, I’ve been operating in a bubble of no emotion for the last 10 days. But I’m frustrated about it just like many of the other things I’ve seen said or written about the book.”

During an interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021, Meghan claimed at least one member of the royal family had had “conversations” with Harry about their child’s skin colour.

Scobie said: “Firstly, I have never used the racist word in this subject. Even the book makes it very clear we are talking about unconscious bias here.

“We’re talking about a conversation that was raised about the colour of Archie’s skin, that they called “concerns”. For me it was important to get to the bottom of that; why was it not covered ever again, why did the Sussexes never talk about it, what happened behind the scenes? The palace said it was being dealt with privately. Was it?”

The Dutch royal reporter Rick Evers has posted a video pointing out the passages in the book that named King Charles and Catherine in connection with the allegation, and which do not appear in the English version.

On Wednesday night, Morgan said he was repeating the claims to prompt an open debate.

He told viewers: “I’m going to tell you the names of the two senior royals who are named in that Dutch version of the book because, frankly, if Dutch people wandering into a bookshop can pick it up and see these names, then you, British people, here – who actually pay for the British royal family – you’re entitled to know, too.

“And then we can have a more open debate about this whole farrago because I don’t believe any racist comments were ever made by any of the royal family, and until there is actual evidence of those comments being made, I will never believe it.

“The royals who were named in this book are King Charles and Catherine, Princess of Wales.”

The pair were also named in reports by non-UK media, including Sky News Australia and the New York Post.

The book’s publishers, Xander, said a re-edited Dutch version of the book, without the names, would appear in bookshops in the Netherlands on Friday.

Translated passages from the pulled book claim Charles was identified in letters as the royal who speculated on Archie’s skin colour. Another passage makes a more oblique reference to Catherine in connection with the allegation. It claimed Meghan and Charles exchanged letters about “unconscious bias within the family after it was revealed that the king and Princess of Wales took part in such discussions about Archie”.

Speaking to the Dutch TV show RTL Boulevard Scobie said: “If there are translation errors, I’m sure the publishers will have it under control. I wrote and edited the English version. There’s never been a version that I’ve produced that has names in it.”