Endgame: Why did the Windsors wait to respond to the Sussexes Oprah interview?

Over the summer, royal reporter Valentine Low released the paperback edition of his most recent book, Courtiers: Intrigue, Ambition, and the Power Players Behind the House of Windsor. In the paperback edition, he added some new details, one of which got a lot of attention: that the current Princess of Wales was the one who argued, in 2021, that “recollections may vary” be added to QEII’s official response to the Sussexes’ Oprah interview. The phrase was always designed to negate Meghan’s story and to gaslight Meghan about the abuse she suffered at their hands. Well, Omid Scobie’s Endgame picked up the thread of what was really going on behind-the-scenes within the Windsor clan in the hours and days immediately following the Sussexes’ televised interview in 2021.

The palace’s slow response to the “concerns about the baby’s skin color” issue: The issue may have later been briefly discussed between Meghan and Charles over letter (and this is why the incidents were not repeated in the Sussexes’ 2022 Netflix series or in Spare), but the Palace’s initial response was not a swift one—they would instead wait until the interview’s U.K. broadcast aired the following day before planning anything. The family, a Palace aide told me, was keen to hear what the nation thought and see which way the wind was blowing in the court of public opinion.

The Windsors’ math: If the Sussexes—whose overall popularity in the country had been on a downward trajectory since they stepped away from their roles—received minimal sympathy from the British public, they would get minimal from the institution, too. After morning television hosts mocked Meghan’s stories, newspapers called the couple liars, and a nationwide poll found that more than a third of Britons (36 percent) had more sympathy with the royal family (compared to just 22 percent for the Sussexes), the Palace issued a carefully worded statement to mirror the public’s mixed reaction.

Recollections may vary: Those three words, recollections may vary, artfully submarined the issue by casting it as a he said–she said situation, effectively throwing the hounds off the scent without any mea culpas or promises of investigations. With a large swathe of the public instantly taking the side of the royal family, it felt like mission accomplished for Prince William’s then communications secretary Christian Jones and private secretary Jean-Christophe Gray, who helped devise the caveat during multiple drafts of the statement. They worked closely with Charles’s chief press aide, Julian Payne, on the perfect response “to plant that seed of doubt in people’s minds,” said a former staffer, who was also involved in communications efforts at the time. “The last thing they wanted was for people to start pointing fingers at the bosses [William and Kate].”

Whether Kate was involved: Someone else also keen to protect the family’s reputation was Kate. Years later, The Times’ royal correspondent, Valentine Low, reported that the then Duchess of Cambridge was the one to suggest that the statement needed something to reflect how the institution “did not accept a lot of what had been said . . . [She] clearly made the point, ‘History will judge this statement and unless this phrase or a phrase like it is included, everything that they have said will be taken as true.’” A source later told me, “She was really passionate about defending the family.”

[From Omid Scobie’s Endgame]

“She was really passionate about defending the family” – she’s a toxic, racist Karen who thought only about her own survival. Something I’ve always wondered is whether William and the rest of the family knew the extent of Kate’s racist bitchery towards Meghan before the Oprah interview. With Meghan quickly and efficiently butchering Kate’s years-long smear of “Meghan made Kate cry,” Kate was desperate for some way to negate Meghan’s story. What’s also interesting is that Scobie pointed out that QEII’s private secretary Edward Young kind of hated “recollections may vary,” because he thought it would lead to the Sussexes dropping receipts. Which they should have done, because these people are f–king dirtbags.

Also, just a reminder: in Meghan’s mind, the biggest headline from the Oprah interview was that she was suicidal from the palace and press’s sustained campaign of character assassination, and she absolutely hoped that the palace response would be to (at long last) acknowledge her pain. Instead, the main focus from the media and monarchy was on racism and the institution was in a clownish scramble to cover their asses.

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Screencaps courtesy of CBS/Harpo, additional photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Cover Images.

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