Omid Scobie Says Prince William 'Admitted Defeat' Over Commonwealth Future

In the new episode of Newsweek's The Royal Report podcast, Omid Scobie tells Chief Royal Correspondent Jack Royston and royal commentator Kristen Meinzer that in Prince William's final speech of his recent Caribbean tour he "admitted defeat" over his future chances of heading the commonwealth.

Scobie, co-author of the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle biography Finding Freedom, told Royston and Meinzer that the commonwealth is "a united family of countries that does have many reasons to exist still but I think with that royal connection—it's clear that things are changing."

He added: "People are asking for that and it's time that the royals listened rather than fought against it."

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Scobie's comments were made in reference to a speech William gave on the final night of his Caribbean tour across Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas. There has been much discussion in these countries—which retain Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state— whether or not to become a republic.

During the course of his speech William said: "With Jamaica celebrating 60 years of independence this year, and Belize celebrating 40 years of independence last year, I want to say this: We support with pride and respect your decisions about your future. Relationships evolve. Friendship endures."

The comments were prompted by a series of criticisms launched at the tours' many PR blunders, the royals' failure to address calls from local people for them to acknowledge the role the monarchy had played in the slave trade, and to engage in discussions around reparations and independence movements.

On their first day in Jamaica, William and Kate were told in front of news cameras by the Prime Minister Andrew Holness that the island was "moving on" and "intending to attain, in short order, our development goals and fulfill our true ambitions and destiny as an independent, developed, prosperous country."

Scobie told Royston that this was the most explicit example of an independence call on a royal tour in recent years, but it was not the first: "We've certainly seen in the past over the years politicians who have had the chance to spend time with members of the royal family on a trip who may express or echo the sentiments of a section of the public who feel that they want a republic.

"We've seen it on trips to Australia, it's always been in the background of trips across the Caribbean and the commonwealth realms, but never so direct. Never to the face of a future King himself."

Moving on to the last leg of their tour in the Bahamas, and following the reference to independence, William added a surprising section on the future of the commonwealth to his final speech. He said: "Catherine and I are committed to service. For us that's not telling people what to do. It is about serving and supporting them in whatever way they think best, by using the platform we are lucky to have.

"It is why tours such as this reaffirm our desire to serve the people of the Commonwealth and to listen to communities around the world. Who the Commonwealth chooses to lead its family in the future isn't what is on my mind.

"What matters to us is the potential the Commonwealth family has to create a better future for the people who form it, and our commitment to serve and support as best we can."

On The Royal Report podcast Royston voiced his surprise at the statement as, "it hadn't actually come up in public on the tour—the question of whether he will be head of the commonwealth... It's not a hereditary title so it's not a foregone conclusion that he will."

For Scobie though the whole speech felt like "it was almost a little too late." He continued: "It clearly wasn't on his mind before he traveled there or they wouldn't have been calling [the tour] the 'charm offensive.'

"It was him putting his hands up and accepting the current situation of the sentiment towards the royal family and their place within society across the commonwealth realm is losing its purpose or its value."

"I think his end of tour statement was a historical moment in some ways because it shrunk the reach of the reign of British monarchs forever. I think that this was William admitting defeat."

Currently the Queen is head of state in 15 countries, 8 of which are within the Caribbean. The statement in William's speech pertaining to the monarchy's future in the area whether as head of state or head of the commonwealth could see his reign look dramatically different to that of his grandmother's.

Prince William Bahamas Speech
Prince William gave a speech at the close of his Caribbean tour with Kate Middleton in which he looked to the future of the royals relationship with the commonwealth. March 25, 2022. Paul Edwards/Pool/Getty Images