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Racist incident at Buckingham Palace casts shadow over Prince William's U.S. visit

LA Times logo LA Times 12/1/2022 DANICA KIRKA
The Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate, watch the NBA game between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat on Wednesday in Boston. (Brian Snyder / Pool Photo) © (BRIAN SNYDER / Associated Press) The Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate, watch the NBA game between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat on Wednesday in Boston. (Brian Snyder / Pool Photo)

The office of Prince William, the first in line to the British throne, said that “racism has no place in our society” as he sought to prevent the backlash over his godmother’s treatment of a Black woman from overshadowing his trip to the U.S.

Lady Susan Hussey, 83, resigned Wednesday as an honorary member of the British royal household after Ngozi Fulani, the head of a London women’s center, said Hussey repeatedly asked her where she “really came from” even after she told Hussey that she was British. The exchange took place at a Buckingham Palace reception for those working to end domestic violence.

“Racism has no place in our society," William's Kensington Palace office said. “These comments were unacceptable, and it’s right that the individual has stepped aside 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 problems, the royal couple are also trying to show that the monarchy remains relevant in a multicultural world.

The episode is a reminder of last year’s comments by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Meghan, a biracial American married to Prince Harry, William's brother, alleged that a member of the royal family inquired about the color of her baby’s skin when she was pregnant with her first child.

The latest incident took place at a reception Tuesday hosted by Camilla, the Queen Consort, for women working to fight domestic violence.

Fulani, chief executive of Sistah Space, an East London organization that provides support for women of African and Caribbean heritage, detailed her exchange with a member of the royal household in a lengthy Twitter post.

Fulani said that when she told the woman she was from East London, the woman responded: “No, what part of Africa are you from?”

The questioner was later identified as Hussey, who served as one of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s ladies-in-waiting for more than 60 years and is one of William's godmothers. She has apologized for “unacceptable and deeply regrettable comments,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement.

The incident comes at a big moment for William and Kate — their first overseas trip since becoming Prince and Princess of Wales following the death of the queen.

The highlight of the three-day visit to Boston will come Friday, when William hosts the Earthshot Prize awards ceremony headlined by entertainers including Billie Eilish.

The trip will also include visits to an anti-poverty 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 dampened criticism of the monarchy during her record 70-year reign. King Charles III, William’s father, has made clear that his will be a slimmed-down royal operation, with less pomp and ceremony than its predecessors.

William and Kate were greeted by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito upon their arrival in Boston on Wednesday. The couple later attend a Boston Celtics basketball game.

Upon landing, William thanked local residents “for their many tributes paid to the late queen,” noting that his grandmother recalled her 1976 bicentennial visit to Boston “with great fondness.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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