LONDON — Prince William’s office has said ‘racism has no place in our society’ as it seeks to prevent the backlash over his godmother’s treatment of a black advocate for domestic violence survivors from overshadowing his trip to the United States.
Lady Susan Hussey, 83, stepped down as an honorary member of the Royal Household on Wednesday after the chief executive of an east London women’s shelter said Hussey had repeatedly asked her where she was from was “really coming” after telling the older woman she was British. The exchange took place at a reception at Buckingham Palace for those working to end domestic violence.
“Racism has no place in our society,” his Kensington Palace office said. “These comments were unacceptable, and it is right that the individual stepped down 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. While the trip is focused on the Earthshot Prize, William’s initiative to support entrepreneurs working on solutions to climate change and other environmental issues, the royal couple are also trying to show that the monarchy remains relevant in a world multicultural.
The episode recalls comments made last year by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in an interview with American television host Oprah Winfrey. Meghan, a biracial American married to William’s brother, has alleged that a member of the royal family inquired about her baby’s skin color when she was pregnant with her first child.
The latest incident took place on Tuesday at a reception hosted by Camilla, the Queen Consort, for women battling domestic violence.
Ngozi Fulani, chief executive of Sistah Space, an east London shelter that provides specialist support for women of African and Caribbean descent, detailed her exchange with a senior royal in a lengthy Twitter post.
Fulani said that when she told the woman she was from east London, she replied, “No, what part of Africa are YOU from?”
The interrogator has since been identified as Hussey, who was lady-in-waiting to the late Queen Elizabeth II for more than 60 years and is one of William’s godmothers. She apologized for “unacceptable and deeply regrettable comments,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement.
The incident comes at a big time for the royal couple
But the incident comes at a huge time for the royal couple – their first overseas trip in eight years and their first since becoming Prince and Princess of Wales following the Queen’s death.
The highlight of the three-day visit to Boston will be on Friday, when William hosts the Earthshot Prize awards ceremony headlined by artists such as Billie Eilish.
But the trip will also include visits to a poverty relief program, child development researchers and local flood defenses, demonstrating the couple’s commitment to important issues facing the modern world.
The visit comes less than three months after the death of Elizabeth, whose personal popularity has dampened criticism of the crown during her 70-year reign. King Charles III, William’s father, made it clear that it would be a lean monarchy, with less pomp and ceremony than its predecessors.
William and Kate arrived at Boston Logan International Airport on Wednesday, where they were greeted by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. The couple later attend a Boston Celtics basketball game.
Upon arrival, William thanked local residents “for their many tributes to the late Queen”, noting that his grandmother remembered her 1976 Bicentennial visit to Boston “with great fondness”.