William and Kate, the Prince and Princess of Wales, have arrived in the United States, but their visit has been overshadowed from the off by a row over racism, which has occurred back in the UK. They flew into Boston in readiness to hand out their widely acclaimed Earth-shot awards, as well as taking in a meeting with the President, Joe Biden.
However, upon landing the Prince was given details of how Lady Susan Hussey, his godmother and a member of the Royal Household, has had to resign her position, following an astonishing conversation she had with a black charity boss, who she repeatedly asked where she was “really” from, very obviously referring to the colour of the lady’s skin.
A spokesperson for William immediately distanced the royal couple from those remarks, stating unequivocally: “The comments were unacceptable, racism has no place in our society and it is right that the individual has stepped aside with immediate effect.”
Prince distances himself from “unacceptable comments”
It is not the start that the Prince would have wished for, but as is his seemingly unflappable manner, he was able to push on, having released his official thoughts on the topic. He was then able to switch immediately back to the matter in hand, which is to focus on environmental innovation, for which prior to the awards ceremony, he and Kate will be having meetings with, and paying visits to, a wide range of different communities in the city.
Disbelief at behaviour of royal aide
Lady Hussey who is 83-years-old, was a close confidante of the late Queen Elizabeth II and accompanied her at the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh last year. She was at an event discussing domestic violence, being held at Buckingham Palace. On meeting with Ngozi Fulani, a charity founder, she constantly questioned her on her background, leaving Ms Fulani “totally stunned”.
She was repeatedly “interrogated” about where she was from, despite on more than one occasion explaining that she was born and continued to live in the UK. It has been said by witnesses that there was an air of “incredulity” in the room, with many deeply embarrassed at the situation.
Irony in the “abusive” questioning
There was a sense of awful irony that this event was discussing all kinds of violence against women. As Ms Fulani pointed out afterwards: “Although it’s not physical violence, it is an abuse”. She went on to explain that she is not someone who would normally tolerate “such nonsense”, but thought it would reflect badly on her London based charity Sistah Space if she had made an immediate fuss.
The charity supports African and Caribbean heritage across the UK who have faced domestic and sexual abuse. She had been invited to the gathering, together with several hundred others, to put forward her points and had listened to a speech by the Queen Consort, who had warned of a “global pandemic of violence against women”.
Ignorance and arrogance at the same time
It was once the meeting had come to its conclusion that Ms Fulani turned to Twitter and posted the exchange to her followers. In the text she described how Lady Hussey moved her hair aside to see her name badge, and then challenged her to explain where she was from. After naming her home location as Hackney, she was bluntly pulled up on that answer and asked “No, I mean what part of Africa?”
After trying to avoid confrontation she was again shocked with the conversation, in which Lady Hussey went on to repeat: “You must know where you are from? Where do your people come from?” When Ms Fulani again explained that she was British, Lady Hussey unbelievably said: “I can see I am going to have a challenge getting you to say where you are from, when did you first come here?”
After again telling the royal aide that she was a British national, and her parents had come to the county back in the 1950’s, the completely out of touch Lady Hussey remarked: “I knew we would get there in the end, so you are Caribbean!” It was an outrageous exchange and one which to the Palace’s credit, that acted upon immediately.
Palace immediately responds with decisive action
In their statement they said they had taken the incident extremely seriously and had established that “unacceptable and deeply regrettable” comments had been made. They added that they had reached out to Ngozi Fulani and had invited her to discuss all elements of her experience in person.
They went on to say: “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.”
They finished by making it known that all members of the household had been reminded of the diversity and inclusivity policies which they are required to uphold at all times.
Who is this “lady” who is so out of touch?
Lady Susan Hussey, was the Queen’s longest-serving lady-in-waiting, given the title of: Woman of the Bedchamber. She is the fifth and youngest daughter of the 12th Earl Waldegrave and Mary Hermione, Countess Waldegrave. She started working for the Royal Family in the same year that the Queen gave birth to her third child, Prince Andrew in 1960.
As a courtier she was often charged with helping new arrivals adjust to the ways of the Royal Household, which included Meghan Markle. No doubt there will be a few people putting two and two together, referring back to Ms Markle’s accusations of racism in the family.
It has been previously reported that Princess Diana was not a great fan of Lady Hussey, apparently taking a “personal dislike” to her during her time at the palace. Her role was considered to be extremely prestigious.
Camilla to drop lady in waiting role
Only a few days ago Camilla, the Queen Consort, announced that she is ending the tradition of having ladies-in-waiting, but instead will be helped by “Queen’s companions”, who, in effect will be six women assistants, who will be less regularly in attendance than the previous role required.
Their honorary positions will involve helping the Queen Consort at public events, but they will be far more informal. In removing the ladies-in-waiting role, Camilla is ending a feature of court life going back to the middle ages.
William and Kate receive a great welcome
After landing in Boston, Prince William first of all thanked the city for hosting the environmental awards, which mean so much to him. The royal couple in readiness for Friday’s event, pressed a button together which lit the city’s landmarks green, before both attended a basketball game. In what was a terrific show of support for the royals, huge crowds stood in the pouring rain to welcome them.
Royal couple’s passion for innovation and tributes to the Queen
It must have been hugely encouraging for the Prince as he attempts to establish his cause across the globe. He said in a perfectly delivered speech, that he and Catherine believed passionately that everyone is capable of achieving great things and he also thanked the people of Boston for “their many tributes paid to the Queen”, on his first overseas visit since her sad death.
He told the listening crowd that his grandmother was one of life’s optimists and that he was pleased to say that he took after her, before adding: “That is why last year we launched the Earth-shot Prize, to give a global platform to inspire hope, as we look to save the future of our planet.”
Friday is William’s big day
Later on their first evening, the two of them went to an NBA basketball game between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat at TD Garden; but Friday is the real reason William and Kate have travelled across the Atlantic. That is when they will hand five deserving winners £1m ($1.2m) to develop their environmental projects and that is when it can be expected that the Prince will deliver a truly powerful speech to support the initiative.