Queen Elizabeth’s lady-in-waiting forced to resign over racist comments

Susan Hussey has stepped down from her palace duties after asking a Black charity leader where she was ‘really’ from

Camilla, Queen Consort, with Fortune FitzRoy (r) and Susan Hussey, at the opening of the British Parliament on November 13, 2019.PAUL EDWARDS (AFP)
Rafa de Miguel

Buckingham Palace has forced Lady Susan Hussey, 83, to resign over racist comments made at an official reception on Tuesday. The event was hosted by Camilla, Queen Consort at Buckingham Palace, and was aimed at raising awareness about violence against women and girls.

Hussey, who was Queen Elizabeth’s lady-in-waiting for 60 years and was to become a “lady of the household” at Buckingham Palace, made racist comments to one of the guests, Ngozi Fulani, 61, the Black leader of Sistah Space, which supports women of African and Caribbean heritage across the UK who have faced domestic and sexual abuse. In a message on Twitter, Fulani revealed that Hussey, who is Prince William’s godmother, moved her hair aside to see her name tag and then asked her “what part of Africa” she was from. According to the post, the conversation was as follows:

- Where are you from?

- Sistah Space.

- No, where do you come from?

- We’re based in Hackney [a neighborhood in London].

- No, what part of Africa are you from?

- I don’t know, they didn’t leave any records.

- Well, you must know where you’re from, I spent time in France. Where are you from?

- Here, the UK.

- No, but what nationality are you?

- I am born here and am British.

- No, but where do you really come from, where do your people come from?

-‘My people’, lady, what is this?

- Oh I can see I am going to have a challenge getting you to say where you’re from. When did you first come here?

- Lady! I am a British national, my parents came here in the 50s when...

- Oh, I knew we’d get there in the end, you’re Caribbean!

- No lady, I am of African heritage, Caribbean descent and British nationality.

- Oh so you’re from...

“It was such a shock to me and the other two women [accompanying me] that we were stunned to temporary silence,” Fulani said in the Twitter post. “I just stood at the edge of the room, smiled and engaged briefly with who spoke to me until I could leave.”

The Buckingham Palace did not try to deny the allegations, and said it had opened an investigation into the matter. “We take this incident extremely seriously and have investigated immediately to establish the full details,” it said in a statement. “In this instance, unacceptable and deeply regrettable comments have been made. 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.

“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.”

The incident comes as the British royal family struggles to shake off allegations of institutional racism. The issue rose to the fore in March 2021, following Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which the actress – who has a Black mother – said that an unnamed member of the royal family asked what skin color their first child would have. The Duchess of Sussex also accused the monarchy of being racist and uncaring – accusations that were denied by the Windsors. Prince William even broke norm, and responded to a TV reporter’s question on the matter, arguing the royal family “is very much not racist.” The palace opened an investigation into Markle’s allegations, but the conclusions of the report have not been made public.

Camilla, Queen Consort, chats with a group of guests at Buckingham Palace; including, behind, Ngozi Fulani, director of Sistah Space, on November 29, 2022.
Camilla, Queen Consort, chats with a group of guests at Buckingham Palace; including, behind, Ngozi Fulani, director of Sistah Space, on November 29, 2022.Kin Cheung (AP)

After learning of Monday’s racism row, a spokesman for Prince Williams was quick to release a statement, which stated that “racism has no place in our society.” The incident comes as the Prince and Princess of Wales embark on a three-day trip to the United States, where they will likely now faced renewed scrutiny over racism in the royal household.

Omid Scobie, a friend of Markle, who wrote the book Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of A Modern Royal Family, also rushed to condemn Hussey’s remarks. “Yesterday’s [Monday’s] event should have been a moment to uplift and support. The fact that Fulani – a prominent figure providing the only safe space in Britain for Black survivors of domestic violence – was made to feel this way by a senior palace aide is unforgivable,” he said in a message on Twitter.

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