A witness to an alleged racist incident at Buckingham Palace has suggested “institutional racism” in the royal family drove the Duchess of Sussex to the brink of suicide.
Mandu Reid, leader of the Women's Equality Party, who was next to Ngozi Fulani when an aide repeatedly asked where she “really came from”, said the Palace should not have acted as though the comments were an isolated incident.
She said to do so was to follow “a bad apple approach” which both deflected and minimised the issue.
Asked where she was from, Ms Fulani said Hackney, in north-east London, prompting Lady Susan Hussey to ask: “No, what part of Africa are you from?”
Ms Fulani said she was born and raised in the UK and was British but Lady Susan persisted.
“Where do you really come from, where do your people come from? … When did you first come here?” she asked.
Ms Fulani repeated that she was a British national born in the UK and was forced to say she was “of African heritage, Caribbean descent.”
Lady Susan has since apologised and resigned from her honorary role.
But Ms Reid said it was not enough to address the problem.
“Let's minimise it. Let's make it smaller. Let's try and frame it as an isolated incident,” she said.
“Let's look at [the Duchess of Sussex's] account. Meghan herself said her experiences in the royal household brought her to the brink of suicide. Now, we were at this gathering for just one afternoon. We spent a couple of hours there and it really left its mark on me. It left its mark on Ngozi.
Lady Susan Hussey - in pictures
“Imagine having to deal with that day, in day out. Week in, week out, month in, month out, from people who are supposed to be your in-laws, your relatives.
“That’s why I say I think there are clues here, that this is a pattern. That it’s institutional.”
Ms Reid said Queen Consort Camilla gave “a powerful speech” at the event, when she spoke about the need to believe survivors of abuse when they come forward.
“Responding when they come forward and report. That principle should apply here too. Don’t minimise, don’t deflect. Believe people who come forward.
“Embrace and support them. That is much bigger than an individual has been moved out of the way so this problem has been done and dusted and dealt with.”
Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of Sussex through the years — in pictures
The row comes days before the Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are due to accept a prestigious award linked to the Kennedy family in the US for speaking about racism in the royal family.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will receive the Ripple of Hope honour from Robert F Kennedy’s daughter, Kerry Kennedy, at a ceremony in New York on December 6.
Ms Kennedy previously described the Sussexes’ interview with Oprah Winfrey — in which Ms Markle spoke out about the alleged racism she experienced from the royal family — as “a heroic stand”.
Among other revelations, she said there was concern within the royal family about her unborn baby’s skin tone.
There were several “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he was born”, Meghan had said. The queen issued a statement at the time saying that the issues raised would be dealt with privately as a family, but that “some recollections may vary”.