Was Dutch version of Omid Scobie's book REALLY a translation error?

Was Dutch version of Omid Scobie book ‘which named two racist royals’ REALLY an error in translation? Experts say it’s ‘hard to believe’ names could be included in mistranslation – and suggest Sussexes’ biographer could have written a different version

  • Dutch version of Omid Scobie’s book has been pulled from shelves in Holland 
  • Author cites translation error and says he is ‘happy’ it is now being corrected 

An apparent ‘translation error’ that saw the alleged ‘royal racists’ named in the Dutch version of Omid Scobie’s new book was today thrown into doubt by commentators.

Royal experts asked how it was possible to ‘mistranslate two names’ after copies of the book in the Netherlands appeared to identify two royals who were said to have expressed concerns about the skin colour of Meghan Markle’s future son Archie.

Veteran royal reporter Phil Dampier said it was ‘very hard to believe that this error occurred due to a problem with the translation’ and expert Michael Cole speculated that it could have been ‘a publicity stunt’ to sell more copies of the book, Endgame.

Dutch royal journalist Rick Evers was the first to spot that two Royal Family members appeared to have been named as the ‘royal racists’ in his country’s translated copy.

Mr Scobie’s book was then pulled from shelves in Holland and the Dutch publishers said they had been ordered by US bosses to put sales ‘on hold’ at the eleventh hour.

The 42-year-old author issued a statement this afternoon in which he insisted it was a translation error in the Dutch version and was ‘happy’ it was being corrected.

Omid Scobie before the Platinum Jubilee service at St Paul’s Cathedral on June 3, 2022 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with their children Archie and Lilibet in December 2021

A redacted version of an English translation of the Dutch version of Omid Scobie’s Endgame posted by Rick Evers, a royal journalist based in the Netherlands who has a copy of the book

Mr Scobie told ITV News: ‘Having only written and edited the English version of Endgame, I can only comment on that manuscript – which does not name the two individuals who took part in the conversation. I’m happy to hear that the error in the translation of the Dutch edition book is being fixed.’

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It came after a new statement was also issued this afternoon by Dutch publisher Xander Uitgevers, which said: ‘The rectified edition of Eindstrijd by Omid Scobie will be in bookstores on Friday 8 December. Xander Uitgevers temporarily removed the book from sale, due to an error that occurred in the Dutch edition.’

But the explanation of a ‘translation error’ has left some commentators unconvinced, with Mr Dampier telling MailOnline today: ‘It’s very hard to believe that this error occurred due to a problem with the translation, and I’ve not seen the Dutch publisher claim this is what happened. How can you mistranslate two names? It just doesn’t make sense.

Mr Dampier, author of the 2018 book ‘Royally Suited: Harry And Meghan In Their Own Words’, added that ‘we have to take everything Omid Scobie says with a pinch of salt because he’s not always told the truth in the past’.

He pointed out that Mr Scobie had admitted lying about his age, adding: ‘You have to hand it to Scobie – he is brilliant at hyping up publicity for his book, and maybe this controversy is all part of that. But it’s very unfair to members of the Royal Family.

‘Although you can find the names of the two royals who allegedly queried Archie’s skin colour online, and indeed in other books, many millions of people in the UK won’t know, and that leads to unfair speculation about others.’

He said it would ‘probably be best if a statement was put out clearing this up once and for all’ – but King Charles III and Prince William had ‘maintained a dignified silence’ through the Oprah Winfrey interview in March 2021, the Netflix documentary last December; Harry’s memoir Spare in January and ‘now this, and I can’t see the policy changing’.

Harry and Meghan with Archie as a baby while visiting South Africa on September 25, 2019

Mr Dampier added: ‘If Harry and Meghan don’t condemn the book we can assume they are behind it in some way or approve of its contents. And that doesn’t bode well for any future family reconciliations.’

Omid Scobie’s new book Endgame about the Royal Family has been released this week

Royal commentator Michael Cole, a former BBC royal correspondent, was also unimpressed by the row.

He told GB News: ‘It’s one thing if it was an innocent error by the Dutch publishers. It’s quite another if this was a publicity stunt to sell more copies of this book.

‘Making the charge of racism is pernicious. It’s an easy charge to make and it’s extremely difficult to refute because you have to prove a negative. And whether that’s a royal person or anybody else, it’s a very ugly allegation to make.’

BBC News royal correspondent Sean Coughlan said: ‘Could it have been some kind of publishing version of a hack or a hoax? Was it a sales stunt? A prank? Stray text put in for a joke and then not removed? Or someone changing text after the proofreading was finished?

‘What’s surprising is that any other news lines in the book were heavily trailed, including excerpts in the US press and in interviews.

Omid Scobie is pictured outside the Good Morning America studios in New York yesterday

‘So it might seem odd to bury the biggest bombshell in the middle of the book, without any subsequent explanation of this revelation, and without any kind of highlighting of the claim.

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‘After this short line revealing the name, the Dutch text goes back to the same as the English, while you might expect it to reference back or expand on such a major revelation, which would be the biggest moment in the book.

‘If a publisher had decided to take such a big decision to reveal this information, it would be its biggest selling point as well as its biggest risk. Either way, if it was going to be deliberately revealed it’s hard to see why it would be tucked away as a single line, mid-text, rather than milked in every way to boost sales.’

The version being sold in English-speaking countries does not name the two people, with Mr Scobie stating: ‘Laws in the United Kingdom prevent me from reporting who they were.’

But the names are widely featured and discussed on social media and are likely to circulate further in the coming days.

Dutch reporter Mr Evers told GB News: ‘The official thing was that it was because of there were some discussions about some of the paragraphs, they wouldn’t exactly mention which paragraphs of course, which is something different than just a translation error.’

He added: ‘If you compare the English and the Dutch version, you just see very clearly that there is just missing two paragraphs. One of the paragraphs has been changed with one sentence to say that the writer is not allowed to say the specific names. So this cannot be a translation error.’

Earlier today, Mr Evers revealed on ITV ‘s Good Morning Britain that the first name of the alleged ‘royal racist’ was ‘very specific’, while the second one was ‘a little bit vague’.

William, Harry, Meghan and Charles speak together at Westminster Abbey in March 2019

Thousands of copies of Endgame, which was published globally yesterday to withering reviews for its vindictiveness toward the Royal Family, now face being pulped in Holland.

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In the English-language edition Mr Scobie does not name the royal accused by Meghan of expressing ‘concern’ about the skin colour of her future son Archie.

But the book alleges that in her letters to discuss the situation the duchess claims similar remarks were made by a second person in the Royal Household.

In the English version, Mr Scobie says he knows the names of both individuals but ‘laws in the United Kingdom prevent me from reporting who they were’. The same sentence is in the Italian edition.

However a page taken from a review copy of the book sent to Dutch journalists this week clearly points the finger at a senior royal.

Referring to the letters discussing the issue, it reads dramatically: ‘But in those private letters an identity was revealed and confirmed: [The Mail has redacted the name concerned and will not be repeating it].’

It is unclear why one foreign language version of the book would name a specific individual when no other editions appear to do so. And it should be stressed that there is no evidence the claim itself is even true.

Mr Evers, who first revealed yesterday that the book had identified one of the ‘royal racists’, told Good Morning Britain today: ‘Names of two senior royals are mentioned during the book.’

Host Richard Madeley then asked: ‘Can I be clear about this, there are two names in the book?’

Meghan, Harry, William and Kate on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in July 2018

And Mr Evers replied: ‘Yes, the first one is very specific. The second one is a little bit vague, if this person is really involved in the story. 

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‘But the first one is very clear and the official way was that it was a translation issue. There are some debates about how these passages were stated in the book. I would say how could you translate a name wrong?’

Mr Madeley then said: ‘Well, I was going to ask you, how do you mistranslate a name. You can mistranslate a word or a sentence, but a name? Do you buy that explanation from the publishers that it’s a translation error?

Mr Evers responded: ‘I can’t believe it. I got through the book with a colleague of you and we saw some passages were missing in the English version. Like a sentence, five sentences between the first and the third part that was in the Dutch version.

‘So something has been erased during the work that has been done for the book. So my suggestion is that… the official words from Omid were that it was ‘never in the production of Omid’.

‘Which is way of saying, well if it’s a production, then it is produced – well, it’s my theory – but then a manuscript has never been produced, but it has been used of course. So I think it was in the manuscript but legal agents said it’s not a good idea to mention these names because of, well, that’s where we are.’

The Dutch version doesn’t just include the specific royal’s name but contains no mention whatsoever of Mr Scobie’s claim in the English version that he is prevented by law from repeating it.

A spokesman for Xander told the Mail yesterday: ‘You are right but I can’t talk about the details. We have, however, received a request to put the title on hold and that is what we have done.’

King Charles III attends St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk, on Sunday

Asked when that request was received, she explained: ‘Just now. We are awaiting further instructions. I do not know how long this will be. You should speak to the US agent.’

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They later claimed it was an ‘error’ and was ‘currently being rectified’.

Adding to the confusion, Mr Scobie told Dutch chat show RTL Boulevard that he did not mention a name in his manuscript.

He added: ‘The book is available in a number of languages and unfortunately I can’t speak Dutch so I haven’t seen the copy for myself, but if there have been any translation errors I am sure the publisher has got it under control.

‘For me, I edited and wrote the English version, there has never been a version that I’ve produced that has names in it.’

HarperCollins in New York, Mr Scobie’s publishers, did not respond to requests for comment.

Two major bookshops in central Amsterdam said they had not received deliveries as expected yesterday, though offered to order a copy for delivery ‘in about a week’.

There was no comment on anything relating to Endgame from Buckingham Palace, which has treated the book with a contemptuous silence.

One royal source told the Mail yesterday that it was ‘thoroughly littered with errors that discredited it as a piece of journalism’.

The furore began yesterday after Mr Evers leaked the name on social media.

That meant that while Mr Scobie, 42, was gleefully waving to photographers in New York and embarking on a round of chat show appearances to publicise his new tome, the name of the senior royal supposedly concerned was being shared on social media – although most reactions to it were disbelieving and sympathetic.

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