Just a few months after King Charles III took office. Racism allegations have caught up with the British Royal Family. The heir to the throne, Prince William, quickly distanced himself from the statements made by his godmother, Lady Susan Hussey, to a black activist at a reception given by Queen Camilla. The lady-in-waiting asked Ngozi Fulani several times where she "really" came from. The palace stressed that the king and queen had been informed. But it doesn't look like the family is rid of the issue.
"The problem with Charles and William is that the focus is already shifting from the actions of a single woman to broader questions - whether Buckingham Palace is institutionally racist," Royals expert Peter Hunt told the PA news agency. The scandal at Buckingham Palace comes at a bad time, especially for William.
Together with his wife Princess Kate, the 40-year-old is currently in the US in the east coast city of Boston to award the "Earthshot" prize for climate protection projects - a project close to Williams' heart. When the royal couple attended a basketball game as the first item on the program and was introduced in the hall, there were also whistles, as reported by PA. However, the connection was unclear.
What had happened anyway?
On Wednesday, Fulani reported on the Twitter account of her organization Sistah Space, which works against violence against women, about a conversation with a lady-in-waiting. The woman, who only identified her as "SH", was not satisfied with the answer that she was British and born in Great Britain. That was nothing but racism, "through and through," said the activist to the newspaper "Mirror".
Fulani spoke of "a form of abuse" on the BBC. Above all, she lamented the fact that the statements were made in front of other participants at the reception, "on a day when we should work against violence against women".
In a quick statement, the palace criticized "unacceptable and very regrettable comments". The lady-in-waiting apologized and resigned. As a "lady-in-waiting", she was a close companion to Queen Elizabeth II and was on her way to the funeral of her husband, Prince Philip, in 2021.
The fact that Lady Susan, who was quickly identified by the media as the culprit, is already 83 years old, Fulani did not accept as an excuse. Rhetorically, she asked, "Are we recognizing that you can't be racist or inappropriate because of your age?" Another attendee at the reception, lawyer Nazir Afzal, told the Mirror that Hussey also asked him about his origins at the occasion.
Dealing with racism in Great Britain
For many, the scandal has highlighted how racism is dealt with in Great Britain. Labor MP Jonathan Ashworth told Sky News there was a lot of everyday racism in society. "Unfortunately, we still have to educate people," said Secretary of State Paul Scully.
Premier Rishi Sunak, while declining to comment on the palace scandal, said of the fight against racism: "The task is never finished. That's why we have to uncover it wherever we see it."
But the victim specifically targeted the palace. "It's about more than a person. It's institutional racism," Fulani told the Independent newspaper. It is true that everyone is checked before visiting the palace. "But what protects us blacks from such treatment? This incident is unfortunate and shows that nothing has changed," said the activist.
The broadcaster Sky News commented that the lady's statements were "at best a naïve misjudgment and at worst a sign of deep-seated racism and a lack of understanding of the problem within the palace".
Colonialism Associations in March
It's not the first time the royal family has been pilloried. In March, photos of a trip to the Caribbean by William and Kate caused dismay. The couple shook hands through a chain link fence, while William, in a white gala uniform, took part in a parade in an SUV. This reminded many of colonialism.
The allegations by Duchess Meghan, who spoke in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021 about the time before her son Archie was born, also caused a stir. There have been concerns about "how dark his skin might be when he's born," Prince Harry's wife said. Brother-in-law William felt compelled to comment. "We are not a racist family," he said a few days after the broadcast. There have been no details or new allegations since then.
But that could change soon. Netflix wants to start a documentary series about Meghan and Harry in a few days, and the prince's autobiography is scheduled to appear on January 10, 2023. Observers do not rule out that the topic of racism will then come up again.