There is a long history of racism within the British royal family, from involvement with the transatlantic slave trade to support for Nazism to Meghan Markle's allegations about comments made by a royal about her child’s skin colour. When it comes to their own behaviour or their family's past, the royals make no effort to address these issues - whether it's everyday racism, structural racism, slavery, empire, the realities of multi-ethnic Britain and their role amongst it all.
The topic of racism in the monarchy clearly makes some people uncomfortable and so it is often difficult to have an open and honest conversation about it. Racism is a complex problem within our society and the royal family has a long history of turning a blind eye to it, and in some circumstances enabling it. Undoubtedly, racism has been allowed to flourish within the House of Windsor and none of us should allow this to continue. The royal family must be held accountable for their behaviour.
Accusations of racism in the Royal Household include:
- The British monarchy was instrumental in supporting the slave trade, something the Queen never publicly acknowledged. Elizabeth I had strong connections to Britain's slave trade and publicly supported Captain John Hawkins, who captured 300 Africans in 1562.
- From King George I (1714-27) to King William IV (1830-37) British monarchs actively supported slavery, investing in it and profiting from it. While slavery had been abolished in Britain in 1807, the future King William had been a vocal opponent of abolition in the House of Lords. Queen Victoria inherited a personal fortune gained through the slave trade, a fortune that has been handed down to subsequent monarchs.
- Queen Elizabeth’s silence on the issue for her entire life showed an unwillingness to face up to past injustices, and a lack of commitment to multicultural and multiracial Britain (and Commonwealth countries). The current royal family continues to profit from the slave trade, through its untaxed inheritances and makes considerable efforts to conceal these gains from the public.
- Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson showed support for the Nazi party before and during the Second World War. Both nurtured a friendly relationship with Adolf Hitler and many speculated that they were involved in a failed plot to overthrow the British crown during the war.
- Prince Philip’s problematic language and outright racism (and sexism) mostly occurred without acknowledgment or apology from the palace. On various public engagements, he referred to Asians as "slitty-eyed", ridiculed Nigerian national dress and referred to Aboriginal people as "spear throwers" (to name a few examples). Uncharacteristically, an apology was issued after one visit to an electronics factory, where he said a messy fuse box looked "as though it was put in by an Indian."
- In 2001 a black former employee of Charles accused the then prince of protecting his most senior aide after the aide was accused of racially abusing her at work.
- Princess Michael of Kent was accused of racially abusing diners in a New York restaurant in 2004, when she told them to "go back to the colonies".
- In 2017 Princess Michael of Kent was widely criticised for wearing a blackamoor brooch when she first met Meghan Markle. The blackamoor design is considered by many to be racist in its depiction of black people.
- Prince Andrew was once recorded using an egregious racial slur about black people, also whilst on official business. In a different incident, former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith accused Andrew of making "unbelievable" racist comments about Arabs.
To date, none of the senior royals has commented on issues of racial equality, such as the Black Lives Matter and the discrepancy of deaths from Covid-19 among Black British, African, Asian populations, although they choose frequently to speak out about the social and political issues which suit their own agendas.
The monarchy is an institution with its foundations firmly rooted in maintaining a Caucasian bloodline. The role of head of state is bestowed on the first-born descendants in each successive generation of the all-white royal family. A non-white person is therefore excluded from holding the title of head of state, which constitutes institutional racism. The answer is not to integrate other ethnicities into the royal family but rather to abolish the monarchy and allow for a truly egalitarian and progressive future for the country, where qualification, experience and suitability ensure one’s position as head of state, not birth.
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