Is the ‘Royal Racist’ About to Be Unmasked? newsusface

Royalist is The Daily Beast’s newsletter for all things royal and Royal Family. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox every Sunday.

The identity of the so-called royal racist came a step closer to being revealed this weekend, after a report in the Daily Telegraph said that Meghan Markle, and the then-Prince Charles, wrote to each other identifying the person, who was a “senior” member of the royal family, in the course of their letters.

The controversy dates back to Meghan and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which Meghan and Harry outlined the traumatic difficulties they had faced which ultimately prompted them to leave the royal family. The most explosive of the allegations was the claim that “concerns” were raised in the course of “several conversations” with Harry “about how dark [Archie’s] skin might be when he’s born.”

Harry and Meghan gave Oprah notably different accounts of what was said and when—but both of them refused to identify the person or persons who they said had made the comment. They subsequently specified that it was not Queen Elizabeth or her husband Prince Philip who was to blame.

The controversy prompted a rare response from the queen, who memorably declared: “The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”

The allegations were so incredibly serious that it seemed possible, just for a moment, that they could rock the royals to their foundations.

That the family were able to survive the revelation was in part thanks to the fact that Harry and Meghan’s accounts of who said what were vague and contradictory, and also, of course, that they didn’t land a killer blow by naming the individual.

The couple have also subsequently backed away from accusing the royals of outright racism, recasting the discussion as being about unconscious bias.

I​​n an interview with British TV anchor Tom Bradby for his memoir, published four months after Elizabeth’s death, Harry explicitly refuted suggestions they had described the royals as racist.

“Did Meghan ever mention that they’re racist?” he said.

“She said there were troubling comments about Archie’s skin color,” Bradby replied.

Once it’s been acknowledged, or pointed out to you as an individual, or as an institution, that you have unconscious bias, you therefore have an opportunity to learn and grow from that…

Prince Harry

Harry said: “That there was concern about his skin color.”

Bradby said: “Right, wouldn’t you describe that as essentially racist?”

Harry replied: “I wouldn’t, not having lived within that family.”

Harry added: “The difference between racism and unconscious bias, the two things are different. But once it’s been acknowledged, or pointed out to you as an individual, or as an institution, that you have unconscious bias, you therefore have an opportunity to learn and grow from that in order so that you are part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”

The issue has, of course, continued to simmer away in the background, although most would argue the royals have successfully moved on. As a friend of the king’s told The Daily Beast: “The queen tried to just keep calm and carry on, and Charles is taking the same approach.”

But it has burst back onto the royal horizon, just two weeks before the coronation of the new king, via the detailed report in the Telegraph about the letters Meghan and Charles exchanged discussing the issue.

The Telegraph explicitly claimed that Meghan sought to highlight her concerns about unconscious bias in her letter to the king, the Telegraph claimed, adding that she had never intended to specifically accuse the person “of being a racist, but was raising concerns about unconscious bias.”

The Sussex camp has denied suggestions that they leaked the information, and Buckingham Palace has declined to comment on the matter.

What seems likely, however, is that an increasingly large number of people now know exactly who it was that Meghan and Harry allege had “conversations” with them about the likely color of her unborn child’s skin. This in turn increases the likelihood that, eventually, the person who made the remark will be identified.

Intriguingly, the Telegraph went so far as to identify them as a “senior” member of the family, an assertion which remains in the published piece. Shortly after the allegation was first made a Buckingham Palace insider furiously upbraided this reporter in an off-the-record conversation for suggesting the person who made the comment was a “senior” member of the family, as had been suggested to us by several sources.

Buckingham Palace declined to respond to a request for comment by The Daily Beast, but the notion that it was a “senior” figure who made the comment seems to be becoming an accepted part of the narrative.

Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, are interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in this undated handout photo.

Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

So who could it be?

Well, at some point over the past few years, every leading member of the family has been named to this reporter, in private conversations, and journalistic gossip, as the royal family’s skin tone inquisitor.

Prince Charles, as he then was, was one of the very first to be publicly named, by the writer Christopher Andersen, who said that Charles made a comment musing on their children’s likely skin color while he was having breakfast with his wife, Camilla, in front of footmen and other domestic servants.

Of course this doesn’t quite mesh with Meghan’s claim that “there were several conversations about it” but then Meghan’s version of events—which says that the conversations were had with Harry who then relayed them to her—conflict with Harry’s account of who spoke to him and when.

Harry seemed to suggest it was a single conversation and happened “right at the beginning” of their relationship, before they got married, not when Meghan was pregnant.

Camilla has frequently been bandied about as a possible suspect, although friends of the queen have told The Daily Beast that they think she would be highly unlikely to have made such a comment. “It’s unthinkable,” one friend told The Daily Beast.

Princess Anne, who is widely rumored to have been no great fan of the marriage in the first place, has also been mentioned as a suspect. In large part, however, this seems to be based on her reputation for blunt speaking, and her perceived overall coolness towards Meghan, rather than any specific knowledge of something she may or may not have said.

Britain’s Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, cries as she, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Queen Camilla and King Charles attend the state funeral and burial of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, in London, Britain, September 19, 2022.

REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

William, of course has, has also come under suspicion in this messy game of Clue. In recent months speculation has intensified because of the extreme way in which he was attacked in Harry’s book, Spare, which did not repeat or clarify the allegation made to Oprah.

We do know that he advised Harry to pause and reflect before marrying Meghan, warning him against rushing into marrying somebody that the family didn’t know.

William is also alleged, by Harry, to have raised an eyebrow at Meghan’s nationality. In Spare, Harry says that when he told William he wanted to marry Meghan, William told him to slow down, adding, “She’s an American actress after all, Harold. Anything might happen.”

In the book Finding Freedom, Omid Scobie wrote that Harry detected snobbish overtones when William urged him to think carefully about marrying “this girl.”

William is the only member of the family to have specifically reacted to the allegations, telling a crowd of reporters shortly after the interview aired, ‘We are very much not a racist family.’

Of course, William is the only member of the family to have specifically reacted to the allegations, telling a crowd of reporters shortly after the interview aired, “We are very much not a racist family.”

And that pretty much sums up the attitude from friends of William who say he would never have made such a remark. It is all a refinement, if you like, of “recollections may vary.”

Historically, the Windsors do have issues around racism to answer. From Prince Philip’s unenviable record of racist jokes to Lady Susan Hussey’s interrogation of a Black charity CEO via Princess Michael of Kent’s racially offensive taste in Victorian brooches, you don’t have to go far to find glaring expressions of overt, let alone unconscious, bias.

King Charles is widely expected to announce an inquiry into the family’s links to the slave trade soon after his May 6 coronation, but anyone with half an eye on the way the cultural wind was blowing, let alone a sense of natural justice and a desire to lead from the front on ethical issues, would have done so years ago.

Meghan has emphatically denied that her non-attendance at the coronation is linked to the letters sent between her and Charles “two years ago”—but few would blame her if the family’s failure to confront its racist legacy had contributed to her decision.

In a bonus chapter added to a later paperback edition of Finding Freedom, unnamed sources close to the couple suggested the Sussexes felt the royals had resolutely failed to satisfactorily address their concerns.

The book said: “The queen’s ‘recollections may vary’ comment ‘did not go unnoticed’ by the couple, who, a close source said, were ‘not surprised’ that full ownership was not taken. ‘Months later and little accountability has been taken’, a pal of Meghan added. ‘How can you move forward with that?’”

Ultimately we don’t know exactly who said what to Harry or when. But locking eyes with the person who wanted to know about the color of her baby’s skin is obviously not something Meghan has planned for the weekend of May 6. The question Buckingham Palace needs to be asking itself is whether they are properly prepared for what will happen if—make that when—that person is finally unmasked.

Leave a comment