Palling around with princes and duchesses might be the dream, but for royal reporter Omid Scobie, it’s just a dream job. From meeting celebrities and dignitaries on royal tours to exchanging jokes with Prince William about his French skills, the Londoner has established a working and personal relationship with the palace over more than a decade. Scobie, who most recently co-wrote Finding Freedom, the tell-all biography of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s spring 2020 exit from the royal family that he penned with fellow royal expert Carolyn Durand, tells Elite Daily his unique role has given him a glimpse into the lives of the royals that many don’t get to see.
One of only three journalists invited to attend Meghan Markle's final royal appearance at Buckingham Palace in March 2020, Scobie says he aims to "pull the curtain back" on the inner workings of the monarchy while reporting objectively on public figures he's come to know both publicly and privately over the past decade. "You really have this front row into their working world," he says. "You are side by side with the royals on these overseas trips, whether you’re sharing the same planes, you have the same itineraries. It’s kind of like a weird class trip, in a way.”
The human interest aspect — the stories of the real people involved — is what most appeals to him. "I’ve always been interested in stories about people, what makes people tick, why they do what they do, which is something I hope comes through in my royal coverage," Scobie says.
Scobie studied journalism at the University of Arts London, and began covering red carpets for a UK-based celebrity magazine, Heat, while he was still in college. However, the 38-year-old's journey to becoming a royal reporter was a bit slower. Scobie started his career writing video game guides at school before transitioning into entertainment and celebrity news, and eventually landing the role as the London editor of Us Weekly magazine. Now, he serves as the royal editor for Harper's Bazaar, the royal contributor for ABC News, and host of ABC's popular royal podcast The Heir Pod. Still, he admits covering the royal beat originally didn't appeal to him.
"I had no interest in the royal family other than [what] they were to our country, other than being a brand," he says. "You think of Britain, you think of black cabs, red phone boxes, the Beatles, and the monarchy."
The author remembers seeing Prince William and Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge, "during some of their more social days," at the same clubs and running in the same London social circles as he used to while working in entertainment. (Looking back, he laughs that some of these encounters would have been invaluable for a royal correspondent to document at the time.) However, it wasn't until 2011, with a renewed public interest in the royal family thanks to Will and Kate's high-profile marriage, that Scobie says he began establishing a relationship to cover Kensington Palace.
The progression was swift. As of 2020, Scobie has accompanied the couple on every royal tour since Will and Kate's first to Canada in June 2011. In 2017 — with local and overseas interest peaking in Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's whirlwind romance followed by their high-profile wedding — the journalist began covering the royals full time.
Scobie is quick to separate himself from the tone of royal coverage in the British tabloids, which is often darker and more salacious than the "glass-half-full" American media. However, he admits it can be difficult to balance his personal relationship with the royals and the duties of his job. For example, Scobie remembers being in South Africa when Meghan and Harry announced they were suing The Mail on Sunday for printing a private letter Markle had written to her father in February 2019. The ongoing lawsuit alleges the publication misused private information, infringed on copyright, and breached the UK’s Data Protection Act 2008. In court documents obtained by Insider, The Mail on Sunday claims Markle penned the letter knowing it would be leaked due to her "elaborate handwriting." Her father, Thomas Markle, is the newspaper's key witness.
You almost feel like you’re intruding at a time when they probably would rather you weren’t around.
Scobie had noticed Prince Harry had been a little quieter than usual in the days before lawsuit went public. “You almost feel like you’re intruding at a time when they probably would rather you weren’t around,” Scobie recollects. “It is sometimes difficult to disconnect yourself from the human side of the story and do your job as a reporter.”
The royal family is no stranger to dealing with negative media attention. The former Suits star has weathered numerous stories about her alleged "difficult" temperament starting in 2018, which reportedly earned her the nickname “Duchess Difficult” in the British media. The British tabloids, in particular, have frequently been criticized for racist coverage of Markle, who is biracial and American by birth.
Scobie says he feels a responsibility to push back against the racism and "othering" that Markle has experienced in particular as both a foreigner and someone of biracial descent. In Finding Freedom, Scobie refuted claims that Markle showed demanding behavior to members of her staff and the royal family. The book also called out the media for propagating damaging and clichéd stereotypes of women of color as "too ambitious," "too aggressive," and "too demanding." Scobie also highlights Harry and Markle’s decision to actively counter the damaging stories, which was against the royal protocol for responding to media coverage.
"It wasn’t just about ignoring ridiculous rumors," Scobie says. "It was ignoring a narrative spun by sections of the media that fed racially insensitive and sexist tropes that we often see used against successful women of color. This ‘Duchess Difficult’ persona was born on some of these tabloid pages, and it was this caricature that was so far from the person we came to know, talking to people who worked with her and people who knew her. This type of racism flew more under the radar, and it was troubling, to be honest."
He admits while others may find it easier to separate themselves from the story, seeing members of the royal family at their most vulnerable leads to a slightly more "sympathetic coverage." That's part of what made Scobie so eager to share the other side of the story in Finding Freedom. "If it wasn’t for this role or view into things as a royal correspondent, we wouldn’t know there was another side to the story," he says.
He's quick to laud both William and Harry's ability to really connect with people, even during a brief interaction. Scobie recalls first meeting Prince William during a trip to Canada’s Prince Edward Island in 2011 and says that not only did the royal remember that Scobie spoke some French (albeit not too well), but he also came up to him two separate times after that to teasingly swap some French phrases with him.
“He just has this impressive ability to remember, but also — even if it’s just for a brief second — connect," Scobie says. "I think that’s an ability we see in many members of the royal family. Prince Harry is really good at that, too." In Scobie's opinion, these kinds of details are an indispensable part of telling the royals' story.
For someone to succeed in covering the royal beat, Scobie says observational skills and attention to detail can make all the difference for grabbing your audience’s attention and setting yourself apart from other reporters. He also brings along an all-occasions "life kit" to be prepared for every situation that could arise, from changing weather conditions to varying proximity to the royals. "You need a small umbrella in your bag, you need phone chargers, you need a pair of binoculars in case you’re far away, you need a sweater in your bag,” he says.
Scobie laughingly says the "lack of glamour" is probably what would surprise people the most about his work. He has dealt with sometimes bizarre methods of transportation (like getting flown into events on military cargo planes), as well as the infamously fickle British weather. As an example, he references the now-iconic photos of Markle and Harry taken in March 2020, when the couple was attending the Endeavour Fund Awards at Mansion House in London. Scobie says what was happening off camera to capture these photos was far from glamorous.
“At that time, I was soaking wet, without an umbrella, behind railings, watching that happen in front of me," he says. "The glamour happens in front of you, but you are often to the side, wet or cold due to British weather, and you have to get there early due to security." One trick of the trade? Scobie recalls another royal reporter advising him to keep a little square of cardboard on hand to put under his feet on a chilly day, to stop the cold from the sidewalk from entering his shoes while waiting for the royals.
However, Scobie says the incredible view of the world he's privy to more than makes up for the lack of behind-the-scenes romance. In addition to witnessing ceremonial welcomes, being in the presence of world leaders, and exploring places he'd never be welcomed in as a tourist, he says, "It's never what you might expect. You might be standing in front of [Chinese] President Xi Jinping one day and chatting to Reese Witherspoon the next at a polo match in LA that the Cambridges are attending."
He says there's also the special privilege of being present during key historical moments, such as when he made the cut to attend Markle's final official engagement as a working royal. Markle, who was visibly emotional while saying goodbye to her staff, hugged Scobie and said, "It didn’t have to be this way." The journalist says it was the proper send-off to private life that Meghan and Harry had been looking for.
“At this time, their relationship with the press was at an all-time low, so I was surprised she wanted an audience of any kind. But I think she knew the significance of that moment. It is one that will go down in royal history," he says. He was humbled to be present during one of the most defining moments of modern British history. "It's surreal to be a part of that experience," he reflects. "You realize you’re a part of these historical moments by being there, which you don’t really realize until you’ve gone off and written up your article."