UK reacts to Meghan’s bombshell interview: palace urged to investigate racism claim

Anti-racism campaigners praise Duke and Duchess of Sussex's ‘honest’ interview

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Buckingham Palace is under growing pressure to respond to accusations of racism in the royal family after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex alleged they were asked questions about the colour of their baby’s skin.

In the most controversial topic of their tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey, the duchess said Prince Harry was asked by an unnamed family member "how dark" their son Archie's skin might be.

The duchess, who is mixed race, said she would not reveal who asked the question because of “how damaging” it would be to them.

But anti-racism campaigners were quick to call for an investigation and said the allegation should be taken seriously.

Rachel Boyle, a researcher on race and ethnicity at Edge Hill University in Lancashire, suggested the alleged remark chimed with “a denial of the existence of racism in the UK generally”.

"I would suggest that this is a turning point in terms of public perception," she told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme.

“As black and mixed race people in the UK, we experience it on a daily basis.”

Dean Stott, who has known the Duke of Sussex for more than a decade after they met during military training, described the interview as "powerful", "honest" and "uncomfortable at times".

He said that problems in the monarchy could be traced back to palace aides and not the royal family members themselves.

“None of the family have a voice, they are trapped within this system,” he said.

“Unfortunately, I think the palace aides are doing a disservice with the family because they are so out of touch with the modern world.”

Television equipment is set up in front of Buckingham Palace in London, Monday, March 8, 2021. Britain's royal family is absorbing the tremors from a sensational television interview by Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, in which the couple said they encountered racist attitudes and a lack of support that drove Meghan to thoughts of suicide. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Buckingham Palace is under pressure to respond to accusations of racism. AP

He said allegations that Buckingham Palace did not help Meghan while she was suffering suicidal thoughts were particularly concerning.

“It’s very clear now why they had to step back,” he said.

“This was an institution, mind you, that has a foundation that raises money for mental health, and they can’t even help a member of their own family.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to comment on the allegations.

"I’ve always had the highest admiration for the queen and the unifying role she plays in our country and across the Commonwealth," he said.

"I’ve spent a long time not commenting on royal family matters and I don’t intend to impart from that today."

Republic, a campaign group that wants to abolish the monarchy, said the royal family was facing the worst crisis in decades.

"This rotten institution needs to go,” the group said.

Charles Anson, who was Queen Elizabeth II's press secretary for seven years from 1990 to 1997, said there was “not a strand of racism” within the royal family.

Asked about the claims that Meghan did not get help from within the royal family when she expressed suicidal thoughts, he said: "There is a medical household and I remember it being very responsive both to members of staff and the queen and her family.

"In my experience - seven years - nearly everybody wanted to do the best they could for their principals - about programmes, security and life.”

He said the queen was unlikely to personally respond to the allegations in the interview.

“I think the palace's instinct will reflect how the queen has carried her role in the last 69 years,” he said.

"Try to take things gently, to be open and fair and deal with ... [the issue] in a private, family setting. They tend to treat these family matters privately - not to do it all over the airwaves."

Others criticised the duke and duchess for “disrespecting” the queen even though the couple praised the monarch several times throughout the two-hour interview.

Commentator Charles Moore, a member of Britain’s House of Lords, said the duke and duchess “presented one version of the facts”.

“We are suffering from Covid and the Sussexes haven’t been in the country,” he told the BBC.

“It does seem self-absorbed and irrelevant.”

FILE PHOTO: 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
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their interview with Oprah Winfrey. Reuters 

Paul Burrell, who was Princess Diana’s butler, said he felt “desperately sorry” for the queen ahead of the 70th anniversary of her reign.

“She is facing another crisis. How much more can she take?” he told ITV.

Former BBC royal correspondent Michael Cole was also quick to defend the queen and suggested she was not behind the remark.

“Quite clearly they are accusing somebody at a senior level in the royal family of being racist,” he said.

“[The queen’s] whole life has been dedicated to the furtherance, success and the cohesion of the Commonwealth.”

Emily Nash, royal editor at Hello! Magazine, said the revelations had left her and many other viewers "shell-shocked".
"I don't see how the palace can ignore these allegations, they're incredibly serious," she said. "You have the racism allegations. Then you also have the claim that Megan was not supported, and she sought help even from the HR team within the household and was told that she couldn't seek help."

TV presenter Piers Morgan, a former friend of the duchess, said the couple had “trashed everything the queen stands for”.

“Let’s be clear: Prince Harry and his wife just spent two hours trashing everything the queen stands for & has worked so hard to maintain, whilst pretending to support her,” he wrote on Twitter.

“And they did it while her 99-year-old husband Philip is seriously ill in hospital. It’s contemptible.”

Children’s minister Vicky Ford said there was no place for racism in society, while shadow education secretary Kate Green demanded the allegations “be treated by the palace with the utmost seriousness and fully investigated”.

Harry 'shocked' over skin colour question

Harr said he was "never going to share" which family member asked him about the colour of his unborn child's skin.

"But at the time, it was awkward. I was a bit shocked," he said.

"That was right at the beginning when she wasn't going to get security, when members of my family were suggesting that she carries on acting because there's not enough money to pay for her, and all this sort of stuff. There were some real obvious signs, before we even got married, that this was going to be really hard."

Meghan also declined to name who expressed those concerns: "I think that would be very damaging to them. That was relayed to me from Harry, those were conversations that family had with him."

Asked whether there were concerns that her child would be “too brown” and that would be a problem, Meghan told Winfrey: “If that is the assumption you are making, that is a pretty safe one.”

Meghan: Kate crying story was untrue

It was sensational tabloid fodder: the story of how of Meghan made Kate Middleton cry after a bridesmaid dress fitting for Princess Charlotte.

And by Meghan's account - it was entirely fabricated.

"Everyone in the institution knew it wasn't true," the duchess told Winfrey of the alleged incident, claiming that in reality: "The reverse happened."

Kate, she said, "was upset about something, but she owned it, and she apologised".

"A few days before the wedding, she was upset about something pertaining - yes, the issue was correct - about flower girl dresses, and it made me cry, and it really hurt my feelings."

Meghan called the incident "a turning point" in her relations with the royal family.

"The narrative about, you know, making Kate cry I think was the beginning of a real character assassination," she said.

"And they knew it wasn't true. And I thought, well, if they're not going to kill things like that, then what are we going to do?

"I came to understand that not only was I not being protected but that they were willing to lie to protect other members of the family."

Harry feels 'let down' by Prince Charles

Speaking candidly about his relationship with Prince Charles, Harry said had he felt "really let down" by his father throughout the painful episode - but that they were now talking to one another.

"There's a lot to work through there, you know? I feel really let down, because he's been through something similar. He knows what pain feels like," an emotional Harry said.

“I will always love him but there’s a lot of hurt that’s happened.

“My family literally cut me off financially. But I’ve got what my mum left me and without that we would not have been able to do this.”

He said Charles and Harry's older brother William were "trapped" by the conventions of the monarchy, but vowed he would "always love" his father.

"My father and my brother, they are trapped. They don't get to leave. And I have huge compassion for that.

"Much will continue to be said about that ... as I said before, you know, I love William to bits, he's my brother, we've been through hell together and we have a shared experience. But we're on different paths."

Harry went on say that he and Meghan "did everything we could" to stay in the royal family.

"I'm sad that what's happened has happened, but I know, and I'm comfortable in knowing that we did everything that we could to make it work."

Harry denies disrespecting queen

Asked whether he told his family about his plans to step away from his royal roles and about a newspaper story that they had "blindsided" the queen with their decision, Harry said: "I've never blindsided my grandmother, I have too much respect for her."

Asked where the story came from, he said: "I'd hazard a guess that it probably could have come from within the institution.

"I had three conversations with my grandmother, and two conversations with my father before he stopped taking my calls. And then he said, can you put this all in writing?"

Asked why Prince Charles had stopped taking his calls: he said: "By that point I took matters into my own hands, it was like, I needed to do this for my family. This is not a surprise to anybody. It's really sad that it's got to this point, but I've got to do something for my own mental health, my wife's and for Archie's as well."

Harry says his mum would want him to be happy

Asked how his late mother would think about his split from the royal family in January 2020, Harry replied: “she would feel very angry with how this has panned out and very sad. But ultimately, all she’d have ever wanted is for us to be happy.”

Harry compared media behaviour to that faced by Princess Diana before her death in a Paris car crash in 1997.

"My biggest concern was history repeating itself, and I've said that before on numerous occasions, very publicly. And what I was seeing was history repeating itself, but more perhaps more definitely far more dangerous because then you add race in, and you add social media and when I'm talking about history repeating itself I'm talking about my mother."