Buckingham Palace under pressure to respond to Meghan Markle’s racism claim

Keir Starmer says allegations in Oprah Winfrey interview should be taken seriously

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle have hit out at the British monarchy and members of the royal family during their candid Oprah Winfrey interview. Video : ITV, courtesy Harpo Productions / CBS

 

Buckingham Palace is under pressure to respond to allegations of racism after Prince Harry and his wife Meghan said a member of the British royal family expressed concerns about how dark their son’s skin would be before he was born.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey broadcast early on Monday, the couple said they left Britain because of racism and accused the palace of failing to defend Meghan from racially inspired attacks on her.

They said that palace officials would not allow Meghan to seek psychiatric help after she told them she felt suicidal on account of what she saw as a hostile press and social media campaign against her.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said the allegations should be taken seriously, adding that the interview raised issues that concerned British society beyond the royal family.

“It’s a reminder there’s a lot more to do. Nobody, but nobody, should be prejudiced because of the colour of their skin or because of their mental health issues,” he said.

“They’re serious allegations and we’ll have to see how the institution reacts to this. It’s bigger in a sense than just the royal family because that experience of racism, I’m sad to say, is too prevalent still in 21st century Britain and we all have to take that seriously and redouble our efforts.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson declined to comment on the interview, beyond expressing admiration for Queen Elizabeth. Ms Winfrey said on Monday that Harry told her that the member of the royal family who expressed concerns about his unborn son’s skin colour was not the queen or her husband Prince Philip.

‘Step back’

During the interview, Harry said his father Prince Charles refused to take his calls for a while after he and Meghan said they wanted to “step back” from royal duties and make money independently. He said he felt let down by his father, who had cut him off financially after he and Meghan moved to the United States.

Meghan, Prince Harry and Queen Elizabeth in June 2018. Photograph: John Stillwell/AFP via Getty Images
Meghan, Prince Harry and Queen Elizabeth in June 2018. Photograph: John Stillwell/AFP via Getty Images

Harry said that after he met Meghan, he realised that he was “trapped” within the royal family and that he felt relieved to be beyond the reach of the institution.

“My father and brother. They’re both trapped,” he said.

“I feel really let down, because he’s [his father] been through something similar. He knows what pain feels like, and Archie’s his grandson. I will always love him, but there’s a lot of hurt that’s happened. And I will continue to make it one of my priorities to try and heal that relationship.”

Suicidal

Meghan said that, although the royal family initially made her feel welcome, she became frustrated by the palace’s failure to contradict inaccurate stories about her in the British press. She said that during her pregnancy with Archie she began to feel suicidal and asked senior palace officials and the human resources department for help.

“I went to the institution, and I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help. I said that I’ve never felt this way before, and I need to go somewhere. And I was told that I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t be good for the institution,” she said.

The Society of Editors on Monday rejected the couple’s criticism of the British press, saying it was untrue that parts of it were bigoted. Executive director Ian Murray said the press had shown support for their charitable work.

“The UK media has never shied away from holding a spotlight up to those in positions of power, celebrity or influence. If sometimes the questions asked are awkward and embarrassing, then so be it, but the press is most certainly not racist,” he said.

The Oprah interview: In their own words


Meghan –

ON FEELING SUICIDAL

I was really ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry, especially, because I know how much loss he’s suffered. But I knew that if I didn’t say it, that I would do it. And I just didn’t, I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought. And I remember, I remember how he just cradled me . . . I went to the institution, and I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help. I said that “I’ve never felt this way before, and I need to go somewhere”. And I was told that I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t be good for the institution.

ON RACE

In those months when I was pregnant, all around this same time so we have in tandem the conversation of “He won’t be given security, he’s not going to be given a title”, and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.

ON PRESS CRITICISM

It was only once we were married and everything started to really worsen that I came to understand that not only was I not being protected but that they were willing to lie to protect other members of the family, but they weren’t willing to tell the truth to protect me and my husband.

ON SPEAKING OUT

I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time, we would still just be silent if there is an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us. That at a certain point, you’re going to go, “But, you guys, someone just tell the truth”. And if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, I’ve lost, there’s a lot that’s been lost already.

Harry –

ON ECHOES OF PRINCESS DIANA

My biggest concern was history repeating itself, and I’ve said that before on numerous occasions, very publicly. And what I was seeing was history repeating itself, but more, perhaps or definitely far more dangerous, because then you add race in and you add social media in. And when I’m talking about history repeating itself, I’m talking about my mother.

ON THE TABLOIDS

No one from my family ever said anything over those three years. And that hurts. But I also am acutely aware of where my family stand and how scared they are of the tabloids turning on them. But it’s there, is this invisible what’s termed or referred to as the “invisible contract” behind closed doors between the institution and the tabloids.

ON PRINCE CHARLES

I feel really let down, because he’s been through something similar. He knows what pain feels like, and Archie’s his grandson. But, at the same time, you know, I of course I will always love him, but there’s a lot of hurt that’s happened. And I will continue to make it one of my priorities to try and heal that relationship.