REBECCA ENGLISH: King faces a Sussex-shaped storm cloud on his horizon

REBECCA ENGLISH: As King Charles lands back in UK from Dubai there will be no time for quiet reflection… instead he will be forced to ruminate on how he plans to address yet another Sussex-shape storm cloud on his horizon amid Omid Scobie book fallout

The King was due back at Sandringham last night after jetting straight to the countryside fresh from his well-received address in Dubai.

As is his habit at this time of year, he plans to spend the weekend striding around the late Queen’s beloved Norfolk estate wearing his favourite patched green tweed jacket and cap, pruning clippers in hand.

It should be a time for quiet reflection on a job well done in the UAE, where he was the only foreign head of state invited to address the annual United Nations climate change conference.ย 

At the age of 75, Charles also managed to cram in half a dozen or so bi-lateral meetings with world leaders, discussing everything from net zero to the crisis in the Middle East.

Instead, he will be forced to spend a rare moment of leisure ruminating on how he plans to address yet another Sussex-shaped storm cloud on his horizon.ย 

King Charles (at Cop28)ย will be forced to spend a rare moment of leisure ruminating on how he plans to address yet another Sussex-shaped storm cloud on his horizon

It was Meghan who first alleged that family members raised ‘concerns’ about ‘how dark’ Archie would be

The row over who said what has been lurking in the Royal Family’s rear-view mirror ever since Meghan first ‘weaponised’ conversations Harry had with family members in which she alleged ‘concern’ was raised about ‘how dark’ their son’s skin might be and what that would ‘potentially’ mean for the family.

Palace could take legal action in race row: King Charles is taking allegations ‘very seriously’ and ‘considering all options’ – as aides hunt for leaker who shared private letters with Omid Scobie after sources close to Meghan said it wasn’t her

Although the word racism wasn’t used during her bombshell 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, the inference was clear (Harry himself used the phrase ‘unconscious bias’ to describe it earlier this year and predictably โ€“ ludicrously โ€“ blamed the resulting furore on ‘the British Press’).

It’s fair to say the global uproar re-ignited by Omid Scobie’s ‘poisonous’ book on the Royal Family and the naming of two royals โ€“ reported to be the King himself and the Princess of Wales โ€“ in a Dutch-language edition of Endgame was an ‘unwelcome’ distraction for His Majesty in an immensely important week for him as an international statesman.

Although leaks had already emerged by last weekend that Scobie intended to refer to two members of the Royal Family, not one, palace officials had hoped the revelation would be a storm in a teacup and had refused to engage with the subject.

All that changed on Tuesday, when a local journalist in the Netherlands revealed the names were included in the Dutch-language edition of the book.

The journalist later told me he had been in possession of a review copy book for a week, waiting for the embargo to lift, and couldn’t understand why British news websites weren’t running the same ‘scoops’ as him.

An hour later he received a panicked call from a small local publisher demanding he take down his story about ‘Koning Charles’ from the Libelle website, which he refused to do, because there was a massive blunder in the translation.

Scobie, appearing on BBC ‘s flagship Newsnight programme (pictured), said he was ‘hurt’ and ‘frustrated’ by the week’s events

The two royals were named in a Dutch-language edition of the ill-reviewed Endgame (pictured) as having been identified by Meghan over claims ‘concern’ was expressed about her future son’s skin colour

I was the first journalist to contact publisher Xander Uitgevers who personally confirmed it was true. I was also the first to call Buckingham Palace to break the news and seek comment.

It’s fair to say their reaction was one of quiet shock. Many will ask why royal aides didn’t immediately seek to get an injunction on the book.

But it was a rapidly developing situation and there was immense confusion as to how it could even have happened.

Was it an ‘error in translation’ as was initially claimed, or had Scobie โ€“ as now seems likely โ€“ deliberately intended to ‘out’ the royals concerned at the start of his project, before being warned off by lawyers concerned over the UK’s strict libel laws.

Unfortunately for him โ€“ as the Mail exclusively revealed this week โ€“ it seems that an early draft of his manuscript was sent to the two entirely innocent (and highly experienced) Dutch translators who faithfully reproduced what they had been given.

For the first 48 hours the Palace held the line that it would not comment.

It was clear they wished to see how it would land, although calls were already flying between London and Dubai, where the advance party of the King’s team had just landed.

And it was equally clear that officials were desperate the scandal didn’t derail the King’s big COP28 moment. As one source said: ‘Sometimes the Palace need to act very quickly and other times they need to act carefully and with great thought. This was one of those times.

It was equally clear that officials were desperate the scandal didn’t derail the King’s big COP28 moment

‘Queen Elizabeth took three days after the Oprah interview to issue a rare public statement because she and her advisers recognised, given the seriousness of the allegations that had been made, she should not be bounced into doing something because of the headlines. It was a case of caution in abundance and when she spoke, people listened.’

What was abundantly clear to me from speaking to multiple contacts, however, is that there was no ‘push back’ on the names that had been suggested.

I was also told Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace were acting with complete ‘unity’ on the issue.

On Wednesday night, TalkTV presenter Piers Morgan took it upon himself to name the King and Kate, drastically raising the stakes.

By the following morning I was clearly and unequivocally told the Palace was now ‘considering all options’, which included the possibility of legal redress.

While it is highly unusual for Buckingham Palace to go down such a route, one informed source pointed out to me that it is not unheard of.

They recalled three occasions that the Palace had involved lawyers and each had been successful: The Sun’s suggestion that the late Queen backed Brexit (for which a front page apology was secured), William and Kate’s suing of a French magazine over topless photographs of the then duchess, and the King’s High Court battle over the publication of travel diaries.

‘It’s not something the Palace does lightly, but there is precedent. And they’ve won,’ my source said.

Behind the scenes, I understand that officials have also this week launched an investigation into who, if anyone, would have had access to, or even glimpsed, the letters passed between the monarch and the Duchess of Sussex over her allegations. They were considered so personal and so deeply private that all but a ‘tiny handful’ of family members and staff are known to have seen them.

The result? There is ‘extreme confidence’ at the Palace that the leak ‘didn’t come from us’.

Which is, of course, exactly what the Duchess of Sussex has also made known via her own sources, insisting that she never ‘intended’ for the names to become public and no one on her team leaked the letters’ contents to Scobie.

The public will have to decide whose version of events they believe.

It’s quite clear to me that, once again, ‘recollections may vary’.

Despite the accusations made by Meghan of ‘unconscious bias’ in her letters, one well-placed source tells me firmly: ‘It is only one person’s version, one side of the story.’

Which strongly suggests that behind Palace walls, those at the heart of events strongly dispute anything of the sort was even said โ€“ or could be considered to have been offensive.

Interestingly, while Meghan used the word ‘concern’ in her interview, it wasn’t repeated by a distinctly uncomfortable-looking Harry, who only said it was an ‘awkward’ conversation.

So where do things go from here? I’m told the Palace’s main focus, despite the furore, has been to get through COP28 and the King’s important appearance.

But conversations will start again in earnest next week when the team are back at Buckingham Palace about what their next move is.

It is something they are taking ‘extremely seriously’ and legal action still hasn’t been ruled out.

There is also immense sadness and anger at what has been described to me as a ‘terrible injustice’ to those involved. Some feel the Royal Family should address such mendacious smears in public once and for all.

But that, of course, comes with the risk of another very public falling out with the Sussexes, who had, for once, appeared equally keen to put the whole matter to bed.

One thing is for certain: That rumoured invitation to Christmas dinner for Harry and Meghan looks vanishingly unlikely.

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