Buckingham Palace Once Banned Minorities From Office Roles: Report

The Guardian uncovered new documents that show the palace continued the practice until the late 1960s.

Buckingham Palace faces new allegations of racist and discriminatory hiring practices, according to bombshell documents uncovered by The Guardian.

In a report published Wednesday, The Guardian revealed that in 1968 “it was not, in fact, the practice to appoint coloured immigrants or foreigners” to serve in Buckingham Palace clerical roles, though minorities and foreigners were reportedly allowed to work as domestic servants. 

The Guardian said the practice continued until at least the late 1960s and that Buckingham Palace “refused to answer questions about the ban and when it was revoked.” The palace did add that “its records showed people from ethnic minority backgrounds being employed in the 1990s” and that it did not record the racial backgrounds of employees before the 1990s. 

The Guardian pointed out that Queen Elizabeth has been exempt from workplace equality laws for over four decades.

Queen Elizabeth II attends a State Banquet in Bratislava, Slovakia, in 2008. Documents uncovered by the Guardian reveal Bucki
Queen Elizabeth II attends a State Banquet in Bratislava, Slovakia, in 2008. Documents uncovered by the Guardian reveal Buckingham Palace once banned minorities from serving in office roles.

The Guardian says the exemptions have “made it impossible for women or people from ethnic minorities working for her household to complain to the courts if they believe they have been discriminated against,” though the palace told the outlet that it has a “separate process for hearing complaints related to discrimination,” but wouldn’t elaborate further. 

In an additional statement, Buckingham Palace said: “The royal household and the sovereign comply with the provisions of the Equality Act, in principle and in practice. This is reflected in the diversity, inclusion and dignity at work policies, procedures and practices within the royal household.”

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson responded to a HuffPost request for comment, saying, “Claims based on a second hand account of conversations from over 50 years ago should not be used to draw or infer conclusions about modern day events or operations.”   

“The principles of Crown Application and Crown Consent are long established and widely known,” the statement added. “The Royal Household and the Sovereign comply with the provisions of the Equality Act, in principle and in practise. This is reflected in the diversity, inclusion and dignity at work policies, procedures and practises within the Royal Household. Any complaints that might be raised under the Act follow a formal process that provides a means of hearing and remedying any complaint.” 

The Firm, as the royal family and the institution it encompasses is sometimes known, most recently faced racist allegations in March, when Meghan Markle and Prince Harry told Oprah Winfrey that a member of the royal family expressed racist “concerns and conversations” about the skin color of the couple’s son, Archie, before his birth.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex would not name the family member, though the couple later clarified that the comments were not made by Queen Elizabeth or Prince Philip. 

Prince William responded to the claims by saying that the royals are “very much not a racist family,” while Buckingham Palace issued a statement after the interview on behalf of the queen. 

“The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan,” the Buckingham Palace statement said. “The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”  

After Meghan and Harry’s interview with Winfrey, the Daily Mail reported that Queen Elizabeth was looking to appoint a “diversity tsar” to oversee increased diversity efforts within the royal household.

Prince Andrew has been accused of using racist language in the past. In 2019, a former Downing Street aide, Rohan Silva, accused the Duke of York of using a racial slur in front of him at a meeting in 2012. 

Silva, who is of Sri Lankan heritage, alleged in a column for the Evening Standard that Andrew once told him: “Well, if you pardon the expression, that really is the nigger in the woodpile.” Palace sources denied the exchange. 

Silva said the duke also once told him, “What you have got to remember, is that you’ll never get anywhere by playing the white man” during another conversation. 

In 2001, Elizabeth Burgess ― a former secretary at Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate ― accused the Prince of Wales’ trusted valet, Michael Fawcett, of using a racial slur to refer to her. 

“One time we were in the dining room and we were talking about the office bible, the policy and procedures document that we were working on, and as I left [Fawcett] said: ‘What the hell would you know, you’re just a fucking nigger typist,’” Burgess, who is Black, recalled in a Guardian article in 2001. “As he said it, the door opened behind me and I heard the Prince of Wales call Michael and he just flushed and I ran into my office.”

“They wanted a white face at Highgrove and I was not that face,” Burgess added. “In the Prince of Wales’s household there is still very much the old school and they have not really taken to Black people.” 

“I never felt part of the team,” she continued. “There were always Black jokes and names going ’round. Because it is the Royal Family it is still very protected. It has its own rules and regulations.” 

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