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How the modern monarchy has faced accusations of racism

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex during their interview with Oprah Winfrey (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions/PA)
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex during their interview with Oprah Winfrey (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions/PA)

Serious concerns over racism within the monarchy have hit the headlines once again, with the Prince of Wales’s godmother – a key royal aide for decades – resigning over remarks made to a black charity campaigner.

It comes just over a year-and-a-half after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who quit as senior working royals and moved to the US, painted the institution as racist and uncaring.

Meghan and Harry alleged in their Oprah Winfrey interview that a member of the family – not the Queen nor the Duke of Edinburgh – made a racist comment about their son, and how the duchess had suicidal thoughts but her approaches to the monarchy for help were turned down.

Winfrey was left opened mouthed when the duchess – the first mixed-race member of the modern monarchy – said a fellow royal was worried about how dark their son Archie’s skin tone might be before he was born.

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The Sussexes with baby Archie in 2019 (Toby Melville/PA)

Harry is penning his own tell-all memoir and has promised to write an “accurate and wholly truthful” account of his life, and the couple’s Netflix docuseries which Meghan dubbed as telling “our story” is reported to be airing next week on December 8.

The duke admitted in the past that his privileged upbringing as a member of the royal family meant he had no understanding of unconscious racial bias.

Harry said it took him many years – and the experience of “living” in wife Meghan’s shoes – to recognise the issue.

The duke was accused of racism himself in the past.

He was widely condemned in 2009 after being caught on film calling a former Army colleague “our little Paki friend”.

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Buckingham Palace (PA)

Two days after the Oprah interview in March 2021, Buckingham Palace released a statement on behalf of the Queen.

It said the issues raised “particularly that of race” were “concerning”, adding: “While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”

The then-Duke of Cambridge later defended the monarchy, saying: “We’re very much not a racist family.”

In the wake of the allegations, the Palace began publishing figures on its levels of ethnic minority staff for the first time in 2021, with the figure at 8.5%.

But royal accounts this June showed that the Royal Household has yet to hit its diversity target, with its proportion of ethnic minority staff standing at just 9.6%, having set a goal of 10% for 2022.

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The Duke of Cambridge speaking at the unveiling of the National Windrush Monument at Waterloo Station, to mark Windrush Day (John Sibley/PA)

A senior royal source said at the time the Queen and the Windsors had embraced the diversity of the nation, and the bid to improve diversity within the Palace workforce was coming from across the royal family.

But the source said a “listening exercise” carried out with Palace employees to examine their experiences has shown that “in building a more inclusive culture, that we should more clearly recognise the strength of our communities, very much in the differences that we all bring”.

In the UK, around 18% of the population is from a minority ethnic background, according to the 2021 Census data.

In June this year, the then-Duke of Cambridge warned that black men and women were still facing racism and discrimination in modern-day Britain.

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The Duke of Edinburgh told a British student that would get ‘slitty-eyed’ if they stayed in China in 1986 (Yui Mok/PA)

William was speaking as he attended the unveiling of a national monument at London’s Waterloo Station to celebrate the dreams and courage of the Windrush generation who came to help Britain rebuild after the Second World War.

In 2017, Princess Michael of Kent apologised for wearing what was described as “racist jewellery” when she sported a blackamoor brooch at a Palace Christmas lunch attended by Meghan.

In 1986 on a visit to China, the Duke of Edinburgh told British students “If you stay here much longer you’ll all be slitty-eyed”, and in 2002, Philip asked an aboriginal entrepreneur in Australia “Do you still throw spears at each other”.