A courtier of the British royal household has ‘resigned’ in the wake of a controversial incident where she kept asking a Black British charity campaigner where she was “really” from, sending the Buckingham Palace into a new scandalous episode of racism.
The controversy erupted on Tuesday during an event hosted by King Charles’s wife Camilla to highlight violence against women and girls.
Ngozi Fulani, who was born in Britain and works for a domestic abuse support group, wrote on Twitter that about 10 minutes after she arrived at the Buckingham Palace, an aide to late Queen Elizabeth II approached her and moved her hair to view her name badge.
After being asked a number of times what part of Africa she was from, Fulani said she replied, "I am born here and am British."
The aide responded, "No, but where do you really come from, where do your people come from?"
"But this is her trying to make me really denounce my British citizenship," Fulani said, as many other Britons of color shared similarly demeaning experiences on social and traditional media. The exchange, she said, left her with "mixed feelings" about the reception.
British media outlets all quoted palace sources as confirming it was Lady Susan Hussey who made the remarks. Hussey, 83, whose late husband was a former BBC chairman, was not just any courtier – she was at Queen Elizabeth II's side for six decades.
Women's Equality Party leader Mandu Reid, who witnessed the exchange, called it "grim" and like an "interrogation."
Labor MP Diane Abbott, the first Black woman to sit in the House of Commons when she was elected in the 1980s, said it was "really shocking" that a Black Briton's identity could be interrogated in this way.
The episode is the most serious controversy yet since Charles succeeded his mother in September.
It comes against the backdrop of racism claims from Prince William's brother Harry and mixed-race sister-in-law, Meghan.
The subjects of race and racism and inclusion and diversity have become very difficult territory for the royals – particularly after suggestions by Harry and Meghan of prejudice within the Royal Family and Royal Household. Last year, William said, “We are very much not a racist family,” after Harry and Meghan alleged that an unidentified royal had asked what skin color their baby would have.
Meghan, Harry faced ‘disgusting and very real’ threats
Neil Basu, a former counterterrorism police chief, said on Tuesday Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and her husband, Prince Harry, faced “disgusting and very real” threats from right-wing extremists. Basu, who was in charge of royal protection during his time at the Metropolitan Police, said the threats against Meghan were serious and credible enough that authorities had assigned teams to investigate them.
The couple said the racial abuse Meghan faced was a major factor that drove them to move to the United States and step back as senior members of the Royal Family. In the couple’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2021, Harry said he felt the Palace was not doing enough publicly to combat the continued racial abuse in the press.
Backlash of racism as William, Kate visit US
Prince William sought to prevent the backlash over his godmother’s treatment of the Black advocate for the survivors of domestic abuse from overshadowing his trip to the United States. “Racism has no place in our society,” William’s office said.
“These comments were unacceptable, and it’s right that the individual has stepped aside with immediate effect.”
The incident reignited allegations of “institutional racism” at the palace on the first day of the Prince and Princess of Wales’ visit to Boston. But it comes at a big moment for the royal couple — their first since becoming Prince and Princess of Wales following the death of the Queen.
The visit comes less than three months after the death of Elizabeth, whose personal popularity dampened criticism of the crown during her 70-year reign.