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Royal racism row: who is Lady Susan Hussey, Queen Elizabeth’s controversial lady-in-waiting and Prince William’s godmother – who once said Harry’s marriage to Meghan Markle would ‘end in tears’

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 02/12/2022 Kate Berbano
  • One of Queen Elizabeth's closest companions, Hussey worked at Buckingham Palace for over 60 years - but stepped down suddenly after 'racist' remarks towards Sistah Space's Ngozi Fulani
  • It's not the first time the now-resigned royal aide has stirred controversy, as she was quoted saying Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's marriage would 'end in tears'

Lady Susan Hussey, one of the late Queen Elizabeth's ladies-in-waiting, has resigned - but her sudden departure wasn't an amicable one.

The British royal family has been thrown into fresh controversy, with Hussey the latest figure to be embroiled in a racism row after welcoming guests to an event for campaigners against domestic violence, hosted by Queen Consort Camilla at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday. Ngozi Fulani, chief executive of charity Sistah Space, later posted on Twitter how she was repeatedly asked by Hussey where she "really" came from, despite saying she lived in London and was born in the UK.

Britain's then Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, centre, and Lady Susan Hussey, left, attend the State Opening of Parliament in the Houses of Parliament in London in October 2019. Photo: Getty Images © Provided by South China Morning Post Britain's then Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, centre, and Lady Susan Hussey, left, attend the State Opening of Parliament in the Houses of Parliament in London in October 2019. Photo: Getty Images

Hussey has since stepped down from her role as a lady-in-waiting at the palace and apologised for her comments, which have been widely condemned as racist.

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Ngozi Fulani is the chief executive of charity Sistah Space. Photo: Sistah Space © Provided by South China Morning Post Ngozi Fulani is the chief executive of charity Sistah Space. Photo: Sistah Space

At Buckingham Palace, a lady-in-waiting refers to someone who has been hand-picked by the monarch to help and perform personal duties similar to that of an aide. Aside from the title and chores, many of the queen's ladies-in-waiting also became her friends and confidantes. Hussey's attitudes and conduct naturally risk tarnishing the late queen's spotless reputation - and further drag the royal family into accusations of outdatedness and ingrained prejudice.

So, who is 83-year-old Lady Susan Hussey, and what role did she play in the palace?

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She served the queen for over 60 years

Britain's Queen Elizabeth, left, and her then-lady-in-waiting, Lady Susan Hussey, arriving at St Mary Magdalene Church, on the royal estate at Sandringham in Norfolk, England, in January 2011. Photo: AP © Provided by South China Morning Post Britain's Queen Elizabeth, left, and her then-lady-in-waiting, Lady Susan Hussey, arriving at St Mary Magdalene Church, on the royal estate at Sandringham in Norfolk, England, in January 2011. Photo: AP

The controversial lady seemed to hold good standing within the royal family based on her years of working at the palace. BBC reports that she was the longest-serving lady in waiting and even earned her title of "Woman of the Bedchamber".

Lady Susan, who was recruited in 1960, had many roles, from responding to letters to acquainting Princess Diana to the royal lifestyle, and even welcoming prime ministers when they arrived at the palace, according to Metro UK. She was often pictured in the public appearances of the late queen.

She comes from a noble family

Lady Susan Hussey attends the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph, Whitehall, in November 2012, in London, England. Photo: Getty Images © Provided by South China Morning Post Lady Susan Hussey attends the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph, Whitehall, in November 2012, in London, England. Photo: Getty Images

The lady-in-waiting hails from a noble family as a daughter of the 12th Earl Waldegrave and Mary Hermione, Countess Waldegrave. Her brother, William Waldegrave, is a former Conservative cabinet minister.

Her late husband, Marmaduke Hussey was a former chairman of the BBC. Following in her footsteps, one of her two children, Lady Katharine, is currently an official companion to the queen consort Camilla, reports W Magazine.

Lady Susan's role was typically given to wealthy aristocrats who did not receive salaries but wanted to gain the prestigious title.

She's become close to Prince William and other royal members

From left front, Britain's Prince Harry, Princess Diana, Prince William, Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth; from left top, King Constantine, Lady Susan Hussey, Princess Alexandra, the Duchess of Westminster and Lord Romsey in 1997. Photo: AP © Provided by South China Morning Post From left front, Britain's Prince Harry, Princess Diana, Prince William, Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth; from left top, King Constantine, Lady Susan Hussey, Princess Alexandra, the Duchess of Westminster and Lord Romsey in 1997. Photo: AP

In her many decades in service, it is no surprise that the lady had earned a lot of goodwill within the royal family. Lady Susan is a godparent of the Prince of Wales himself, William, and she even attended his confirmation in 1997, per ITV.

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The Woman of the Bedchamber had also become close to King Charles throughout the years. Recently, she was seen to have been enjoying a race at the Royal Ascot with the king and queen consort.

She stayed on even after the queen's death

Queen Elizabeth accompanied by her lady-in-waiting Lady Susan Hussey as they depart after attending the Gold Service Scholarship awards ceremony at Claridge's in February 2016, in London, England. Photo: Getty Images © Provided by South China Morning Post Queen Elizabeth accompanied by her lady-in-waiting Lady Susan Hussey as they depart after attending the Gold Service Scholarship awards ceremony at Claridge's in February 2016, in London, England. Photo: Getty Images

Even after the death of the late queen and her friend, Elizabeth, Lady Susan remained in the palace. According to Yahoo!, King Charles had granted her the role of the King's Lady of the Household.

Queen Consort Camilla recently ended the tradition of having ladies-in-waiting and would instead be assisted by the "queen's companions". Unlike their predecessors, the companions are likely to have less publicity and appearances, per Harper's Bazaar.

It's far from her first controversy

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the athletics event during the Invictus Games at Zuiderpark on April 17, in The Hague, Netherlands. Photo: WireImage © Provided by South China Morning Post Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the athletics event during the Invictus Games at Zuiderpark on April 17, in The Hague, Netherlands. Photo: WireImage

Lady Susan's recent public criticism wasn't actually the first time that she had made headlines. The Telegraph reported that in 2018, she said "(it) will all end in tears - mark my words", in reference to the marriage of the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

In a similar fashion to how she was once assigned to Princess Diana, it was reported that Lady Susan had made visits to then Meghan Markle to help her adjust to the royal lifestyle.

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Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Lady Susan Hussey attend the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph, Whitehall in November 2012, in London, England. Photo: Getty Images © Provided by South China Morning Post Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Lady Susan Hussey attend the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph, Whitehall in November 2012, in London, England. Photo: Getty Images

The now-former lady-in-waiting had decided to step down once her recent comments had made their rounds on social media. Next-in-line Prince William condemned her remarks, with a spokesperson saying, "racism has no place in our society".

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