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UK royals in new race row as William and Kate head to US

By Agence France-Presse Published Dec 01, 2022 9:30 am

A godmother of Prince William quit the royal household on Wednesday, Nov. 30 and apologized for repeatedly asking a black British woman where she was "really" from, plunging Buckingham Palace into a fresh racism row.

Susan Hussey's resignation came just as William and his wife Kate made their first visit to the United States in eight years and after racism claims from his brother Harry and mixed-race sister-in-law, Meghan.

In Boston, a spokesman for the royal couple told reporters: "Racism has no place in our society."

"These comments were unacceptable, and it's right that the individual has stepped aside with immediate effect."

William was not involved in the decision but "believes it's the right course of action to be taken," the spokesman added.

"He won't be commenting further."

Hussey, 83, is a longstanding former lady-in-waiting to William's late grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II and was a courtier to Queen Consort Camilla. She is one of William's six godparents.

Ngozi Fulani, the chief executive of the London-based Sistah Space group which campaigns for survivors of domestic abuse, said the comments came as she attended a palace reception on Tuesday, Nov. 29.

Asked where she was from, Fulani said Hackney, northeast London, prompting the woman whom she identified only as "Lady SH" to ask: "No, what part of Africa are you from?"

Fulani said she was born and raised in the UK and was British but the woman persisted.

"Where do you really come from, where do your people come from?... When did you first come here?" she was asked.

Fulani repeated that she was a British national born in the UK and was forced to say she was "of African heritage, Caribbean descent."

The exchange, she wrote on Twitter, left her with "mixed feelings" about the reception, which was hosted by Camilla to highlight violence against women and girls.

Women's Equality Party leader Mandu Reid, who witnessed the exchange, called it "grim" and like an "interrogation."

She said it felt as if they were "not being treated as if we belong" or "as if we are British."


Buckingham Palace said it took the incident "extremely seriously" and called the comments "unacceptable and deeply regrettable."

"We have reached out to Ngozi Fulani on this matter, and are inviting her to discuss all elements of her experience in person if she wishes," a statement read.

"In the meantime, the individual concerned would like to express her profound apologies for the hurt caused and has stepped aside from her honorary role with immediate effect.

"All members of the Household are being reminded of the diversity and inclusivity policies which they are required to uphold at all times."

British media outlets all quoted palace sources as confirming it was Hussey who made the remarks.

As lady-in-waiting to the queen, Hussey was described as one of the late monarch's most trusted aides. 

Camilla has scrapped the formal roles of ladies in waiting, but Hussey, whose late husband was a former BBC chairman, was kept on as a royal retainer by King Charles III.

East Coast rivalry

William and Kate are on a three-day visit to Boston, where Charles's heir will award the Earthshot Prize for initiatives to tackle climate change.

Last year, William insisted "we are very much not a racist family" after Harry and Meghan alleged that an unidentified royal had asked what color skin their baby would have.

William has since praised the "immense contribution" of the "Windrush" generation of Caribbean migrants, who helped Britain to rebuild after World War II.

Despite arriving legally, many were later wrongly detained and even deported under the Conservative government's hardline immigration policies.

As William and Kate visit Boston, Harry and Meghan are due in New York for another awards ceremony, although the feuding brothers have reportedly no plans to meet.

Harry and Meghan quit royal life in early 2020 and moved to California, winning many fans among younger people and in the black community for taking on the British establishment.

The UK media, though, has repeatedly accused them of exaggerating their unhappy plight as members of the royal family but the couple may point to the latest allegations as vindication.

The palace was earlier this year accused of being tone-deaf to calls from Caribbean countries which still have Charles as head of state to acknowledge Britain's past role in slavery.

William and Kate's visit to Jamaica was also criticized for smacking of colonialism. (AFP)

(Reports from Phil HAZLEWOOD and Jitendra JOSHI with Peter HUTCHISON in Boston)