LONDON (AP) — Prince William’s office said “racism has no place in our society” as it sought to prevent a backlash over his visit to a black lawyer who survived domestic abuse with his godmother.
After Dame Susan Hussey, 83, stepped down as an honorary member of the royal family on Wednesday, the chief executive of an east London women’s refuge said Hussey repeatedly asked her where she “really” was from when she told him she had told an elderly woman she was British. The exchange at a reception at Buckingham Palace for workers to end domestic violence.
“Racism has no place in our society,” his office at Kensington Palace said. “These comments were unacceptable, and it is right to remove the individual with immediate effect.”
The incident sparked allegations of “institutional racism” at the palace on the first day of the Prince and Princess of Wales’ visit to Boston. While the trip focuses on the EarthShot Prize, William’s initiative to support entrepreneurs working to solve climate change and other environmental problems, the royal couple is also trying to show that royalty is still relevant in a multicultural world.
The episode is a reminder of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in an interview with US TV presenter Oprah Winfrey last year. American Meghan, who is married to William’s brother, has alleged that a member of the royal family asked her about the color of her baby’s skin when she was pregnant with her first child.
The latest incident occurred on Tuesday, at a reception hosted by Queen Camilla, for those working to combat domestic violence.
Ngozi Fulani, chief executive of Sistah Space, an east London shelter providing specialist support for women of African and Caribbean descent, detailed her exchange with a member of the royal family in a lengthy Twitter post.
Fulani said that when he told the woman he was from East London, she replied, “No, what part of Africa are you from?”
The questioner has since been identified as Hussey, who was a lady-in-waiting to the late Queen Elizabeth II for more than 60 years and is godmother to William. “I apologize for the unacceptable and deeply regrettable comments,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement.
But the event comes at an important time for the royal couple: their first overseas trip in eight years and their first since becoming Prince and Princess of Wales after the Queen’s death.
The highlight of the three-day visit to Boston will come on Friday, when William will host the Earthshot Awards Gala, headlined by the likes of Billie Eilish.
But the tour will also include visits to anti-poverty programs, child development researchers and local flood defenses, demonstrating the couple’s commitment to the important issues facing the modern world.
The visit comes less than three months after the death of Elizabeth, whose personal popularity tempered criticism of the crown during her 70-year reign. Guillermo’s father, King Carlos III, made it clear that there would be a low monarchy with less ceremony than his predecessors.
William and Kate arrived at Boston Logan International Airport on Wednesday, where they were greeted by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karen Polito. Later, the duo attended a Boston Celtics basketball match.
After landing, William thanked the locals for their “great respect for the late Queen”, noting that his grandmother remembered her 1976 visit to Boston for the Bicentennial with “great fondness”.