The Royal family was considering legal action on Thursday night after media outlets around the world began naming the two so-called “royal racists”.
The identities of two senior royals said to have commented on the colour of Prince Archie’s skin were first published in the Dutch translation of Endgame, the new book by Omid Scobie.
Piers Morgan then named both on his TalkTV show on Wednesday evening before a series of other news organisations followed suit, including The Guardian, ITV and Sky News, The New York Post, The New York Times and The Herald Sun in Australia.
Sources close to the Royal family said there was no basis to the claims.
On Thursday, Tom Tugendhat, the security minister, defended the two royals at the centre of the allegations. TalkTV host Jeremy Kyle told him: “King Charles and the Princess of Wales were named by Piers Morgan last night. Online, this is everywhere.”
Mr Tugendhat replied: “Some individual has written some rumour and scuttlebutt that has made various claims about His Majesty the King that are, frankly, completely unproven.
“The King’s done a brilliant job for us – not just in the last year since he’s been King, but he’s been absolutely fantastic for many, many years in arguing in the interests of the British people as Prince of Wales.
“So frankly I see this as just rumour, hearsay and an attempt to disparage somebody who’s served our country with enormous dignity and enormous grace for many, many years.”
Sources close to the Duchess of Sussex, who named the pair in a letter she wrote to the King, have insisted she never intended them to be publicly identified and that the letter was not leaked to Scobie by anyone in her camp.
The row threatens to overshadow the King’s appearance at the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai, where he is due to deliver the opening address on Friday.
The King will tell world leaders that repeated warning signs about climate change are being ignored, to the detriment of “lives and livelihoods”.
He will press upon those gathered at COP28 to take urgent action.
“I pray with all my heart that COP 28 will be a critical turning point towards genuine transformational action,” he is expected to say.
“The hope of the world rests on the decisions you must take.”
As the only foreign head of state invited to address the summit, the King is understood to consider his involvement a “great honour” and one that he “deeply appreciates”.
It is considered testament to the work he has been doing in this area for over five decades.
On Thursday, the King, 75, held three bilateral meetings with world leaders, and aides insisted he was “utterly focused” on the summit.
Other senior members of the Royal family followed his lead and ploughed on with official duties in the face of the damaging claims.
The Queen, as Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles, attended a regimental awards dinner at the Guildhall in the City of London on Thursday night.
The Prince and Princess of Wales showed no hint of the strain as they attended the Royal Variety Performance at the Royal Albert Hall. They were joined by Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel, visiting royals from Sweden.
The Prince and Princess ignored questions about the scandal as they stepped out of their vehicle, walking towards each other and briefly holding hands before they walked down the red carpet.
But behind the scenes, courtiers were locked in meetings with lawyers over how to respond to the furore. A royal source said: “We are considering all options.”
Any potential legal action could lead to a high-profile, international court battle, pitting media giants against the monarchy and the royal institution against the Sussexes.
Legal experts said the royals could sue Scobie for breach of privacy or the media outlets for defamation. They could also seek an injunction to prevent the names being circulated any more widely.
The institution has traditionally shied away from pursuing legal action because of the can of worms that could be opened. However, it is not unprecedented. In 2012, the then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge successfully sued Closer, a French magazine, after it published topless photos of the Duchess on holiday.
Morgan told viewers of his show, Uncensored, that he did not believe “any racist comments were ever made by any members of the Royal family”.
The broadcaster, a vocal critic of both Scobie and the Duchess of Sussex, said he was sharing the names in order to enable an “open debate” about what really happened.
In a lengthy monologue, he poured scorn on the various explanations given for how the royals’ names had emerged in print and said he would name them in order to kick-start the process of getting to the truth.
“I’m going to cut through all this c--p. I’m going to tell you the names of the two senior royals who are named in the Dutch version of the book,” he said. “Because frankly, if Dutch people wandering into a bookshop can pick it up and see these names, then you, British people here who actually pay for the British Royal family, you’re entitled to know too.
“And then we can have an open debate about this whole farrago. Because I don’t believe any racist comments were ever made by any members of the Royal family, and until there is actual evidence of those comments being made, I will never believe it.
“But now we can start the process of finding out if they ever got uttered, what the context was, and whether there was any racial intent at all. Like I say, I don’t believe there was.”
After Morgan, The New York Post was next to name the two royals, with other publications following suit.
Endgame describes how the Duchess, 42, sent a letter to the King, who was then the Prince of Wales, in which she expressed concerns about unconscious bias in the Royal family.
The letter, first revealed in The Telegraph, was sent in the wake of the Sussexes’ March 2021 Oprah Winfrey interview, in which Meghan alleged that a member of the family had speculated about the colour of her unborn son’s skin.
Scobie reveals that the Duchess complained to Charles about two people who had upset her with comments about Prince Archie’s skintone. However, he stops short of naming them in the English language version of the book, citing “laws in the UK”.
He has blamed the fact that the identities were included in the Dutch edition on a translation error, denying that it was a marketing ploy.
Scobie told ITV’s This Morning on Thursday he was “frustrated” that the names had been printed but said he had “never” submitted a version of the manuscript that included them.
Presenter Craig Doyle questioned how that could have happened, describing it as “bizarre” and saying: “You don’t accidentally put in a name and you can’t put it down to a mistranslation. It does feel like a stunt to sell books.”
Scobie replied: “I wish that was the case. It’s still being investigated. I wrote and edited the English version of the book with one publisher and that was then licensed to other publishers.
“I’m as frustrated as everyone else. I make it very clear in this book that I, in every way possible, want to adhere to the laws on this subject. It’s why I’ve been very careful in how it’s described in the book and what I’ve said in the public domain before.”
Meanwhile, Xander Uitgevers, the Dutch publisher, appeared to row back on earlier claims that it was the result of an “error [that] occurred in the Dutch translation.”
A statement released on Wednesday said the book had been temporarily withdrawn “due to an error that occurred in the Dutch edition”. A spokesman told The Telegraph he was unable to divulge further information, saying: “We’re investigating it.”
The Dutch translator who worked on the book also denied that she had added the names, insisting she had worked on the manuscript she had been sent.
Saskia Peeters told MailOnline from her home in Arnhem: “As a translator, I translate what is in front of me. The names of the royals were there in black and white. I did not add them. I just did what I was paid to do, and that was translate the book from English into Dutch.”
The debacle sparked a bidding war for Dutch copies of the book, which on Thursday were on sale on Dutch auction sites for as much as €185 per copy. Many experts have questioned how the names could have been inserted into the manuscript in error.
The Dutch version discusses the letters sent between Meghan and Charles on page 128. “In those private letters an identity was revealed and confirmed,” it says, before naming one of the alleged culprits.
The person responsible meant “no ill-will or bias”, according to Scobie. The book quotes a royal insider who claims that person wanted to clarify that point, which was considered “very important”.
He then returns to the subject on page 334, identifying both people named in Meghan’s letter who “took part in such conversations about Archie”.
However, that paragraph does not appear in the English version, which skips from a reference to the Princess of Wales jokingly shuddering when Meghan’s name was mentioned to a source quote about how she had always got on with Prince Harry but would never again trust him.
The King shrugged off the furore as he arrived in Dubai, where he will address the Cop28 environmental summit. Ahead of a 30-minute bilateral meeting with Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Nigeria’s president, on Thursday morning, he was asked how he was and replied: “I’m all right very much, just about.”