Omid Scobie wrote a personal essay for Harper’s Bazaar about his experiences covering the royals and what he witnessed firsthand, plus some analysis of how the Crown’s rigidity, incompetence and racial blindspots have led to where we are now with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex living their best lives in Montecito. While Scobie doesn’t inundate us with piping hot tea, he makes his points and he makes them well. You can read the full Bazaar piece here. Some highlights:
Scobie went to the palace to get their response while working on Finding Freedom: “This is nonsense. … We did absolutely everything [for Meghan],” the senior aide told me over the phone. I asked for examples. “Everybody welcomed her, and she was given all the support she needed,” they continued. I asked again. “They forget how accommodating we were when it came to navigating the duchess through her first steps [as a working royal],” the aide added, somewhat curtly. I had several conversations like this over the weeks that followed—each party, be they from Clarence House, Buckingham Palace, or Kensington Palace, for the most part seemingly baffled by the Sussexes’ grievances. Finally, I took what I had and moved on.
The false & widely circulated story that Meghan made Kate cry: Meghan was repeatedly told that it would not be possible to set the record straight, despite it being a story that fed into a stereotype-laden narrative. Other royal family members were often afforded more sympathetic support when it came to dealing with inaccurate press (officials even issued a statement to deny Kate’s use of Botox in July 2019), but both Harry and Meghan felt they did not have access to this same privilege.
Remember how Harry had to issue that statement in January 2020: The couple’s exasperation came to a head in January 2020, when Kensington Palace urgently requested that Prince Harry cosign a statement against an “offensive” newspaper report stating Prince William “constantly bullied” the Sussexes before their decision to step away. “Well, if we’re just throwing any statement out there now, then perhaps KP can finally set the record straight about me [not making Kate cry],” Meghan emailed an aide, asking why side of the story public image was never considered important to anyone. But, as with many requests made by the couple, her suggestion was ignored. The Duchess of Cambridge, she was told, should never be dragged into idle gossip.
Meghan’s dark moments in 2019: She turned to senior staff—including the palace’s own HR department—but her plea for help in January 2019 was repeatedly shut down. It’s not a good look for the family, she was told. Even friends who wanted to help her or speak up in her defense were regularly reminded by palace aides to keep quiet. As the cruel commentary, racist attacks, death threats, and negative tabloid stories piled up—and the institution continued to ignore the problem—Meghan later likened the experience to a friend as “death by a thousand cuts.” Her reference to an ancient Chinese execution method was no coincidence.
Neglect & gaslighting: When Kate quickly found public adoration as the Duchess of Cambridge, the palace would proudly tell members of the press that lessons from the past had been learned. “There has been a concerted effort to ensure that history never repeats itself,” one senior staff member working for the Cambridges told me in 2014. Yet, here we are in 2021, with a very real image of Britain’s oldest and most revered establishment once again engaged in neglect and gaslighting, and dismissing mental health.
The institution has always been racist at its very core: This is an establishment that only last week briefed The Times of London that Meghan wanted to be royal “the Beyoncé way,” and that the help offered to her included establishing the queen’s Black equerry (a senior attendant, if you will) as a “mentor.” Princess Michael of Kent’s ignorance regarding wearing a blackamoor brooch during her first encounter with Meghan is a reminder that even racial sensitivity can be lacking within the family. An establishment that, as Meghan herself explained, has yet to learn the difference between rude and racist press coverage. The stiff upper lip, no matter how painful the attacks, was expected to remain impossibly rigid at all times.
Damn, Scobie: If it’s not considered appropriate to acknowledge racism or racial ignorance when aimed at a mixed-raced senior royal, then how should the 54 countries of the Commonwealth and its predominantly Black, Brown, and mixed population feel about the realm’s figurehead belonging to an institution that claims to celebrate “diversity” but in practice appears to uphold white supremacy? And if the lack of awareness Harry described to Oprah is true, then were race-related public duties, including Prince William recently calling out racism in British soccer and Prince Charles speaking out about racism in architecture in 2000, simply performative? It’s hard to forget that across the full lineup of working royals, all failed to acknowledge last year’s Black Lives Matter movement, which saw just as much protesting across the United Kingdom as the United States.
The end of his piece was basically like “abolish the monarchy” without saying that directly. The biggest cut – and I believe the best cut – was the point he makes about the performative nature of William and Charles’ vague words about race and racism. It’s been clear – especially in William’s case – that he has no background in the issues, that he thinks he can just declare that he’s “bored with racism” and that “racism affects mental health” and that everything will be fixed. The fact that he was behaving like a racist colonizer behind the scenes to his sister-in-law was just an added layer of his tone-deaf race relations.
Just FYI – here’s the January 2020 story about the Palace forcing Harry to issue a denial. I actually got that wrong at first, but the update has the correction. Kensington Palace was leaking like a sieve that whole month and it was a giant mess. It’s still weird that they made Harry issue that denial though.
Photos courtesy of WENN, Backgrid, Avalon Red.