royal family

Surprise: The Palace Has a History of Racist Hiring Policies

Photo: Kirsty O’Connor - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Well, things continue to look not so great for the royal family. As reported by the Guardian, newly discovered documents show that until at least 1968, the palace barred “coloured immigrants or foreigners” from serving in office roles. Per the documents, the queen’s chief financial manager told civil servants at the time that “it was not, in fact, the practice to appoint coloured immigrants or foreigners” to clerical roles in the royal household, but they were allowed to work as domestic servants.

In a statement made to Harper’s Bazaar, a spokesperson for Buckingham Palace said, “Claims based on a secondhand account of conversations from over 50 years ago should not be used to draw or infer conclusions about modern-day events or operations.” The statement loosely acknowledged the royal household’s current compliance with the U.K.’s Equality Act, saying, “This is reflected in the diversity, inclusion, and dignity at work policies, procedures, and practices within the royal household.”

Buckingham Palace didn’t answer questions specifically regarding the ban or when it was lifted. However, it told the Guardian it has records showing that people from “ethnic minority backgrounds” were employed in the 1990s, explaining that prior to that, it didn’t keep records on employees’ racial backgrounds.

Further complicating matters, for the past four decades, the queen has been exempt from laws preventing racial and gender discrimination. With this exemption, employees in the royal household could not file a legal complaint if they believed they were being discriminated against on the basis of race or gender. The exemption, which was established in the ’70s, remains in effect, and Buckingham Palace told the Guardian that it has a separate process for discrimination complaints, though it didn’t explain what the process involves.

The new documents reveal another layer of the palace’s history of racism amid an already contentious conversation. During her now-famous interview with Oprah, Meghan Markle revealed that, while she was pregnant with Archie, unnamed members of the royals’ inner circle had “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.” During the same conversation, Prince Harry said his family refused to “acknowledge race was an element” in how Markle was portrayed and targeted by the British media, despite its detrimental impact on her mental health.

In response to the interview, the queen issued a somewhat dismissive statement saying, “The issues raised, particularly those of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.” Meanwhile, Prince William responded by telling the press that the royals are “very much not a racist family.” Neither statement included an explicit apology.

This latest report is disappointing but unsurprising given whom the palace has chosen to protect in the past. The same day the Guardian’s report was released, the palace announced it’d be celebrating the queen’s 70-year reign with a “Platinum Jubilee” next summer.

Surprise: The Palace Has a History of Racist Hiring Policies