Prince Andrew used N-word, says former Downing Street aide

Ex-aide to Cameron says prince used word during 2012 meeting at Buckingham Palace

Prince Andrew: “Well, if you’ll pardon the expression, that really is the n***** in the woodpile,” he is alleged to have said by former aide to David Cameron Rohan Silva in a meeting at Buckingham Palace in 2012. Photograph: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP via Getty Images

Prince Andrew: “Well, if you’ll pardon the expression, that really is the n***** in the woodpile,” he is alleged to have said by former aide to David Cameron Rohan Silva in a meeting at Buckingham Palace in 2012. Photograph: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP via Getty Images

 

Prince Andrew has been accused of using the N-word in a conversation with a senior political aide, adding to the royal’s woes after his BBC Newsnight interview regarding his friendship with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The claim was made Rohan Silva, a former aide to David Cameron, who met the prince at Buckingham Palace in 2012.

Mr Silva asked Queen Elizabeth’s son whether the government department responsible for trade “could be doing a better job”, according to the Evening Standard.

He claims the prince responded: “Well, if you’ll pardon the expression, that really is the n***** in the woodpile.”

The same phrase was used by Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris in 2017, prompting the party to suspend for her for several months.

The Evening Standard quoted unnamed palace sources insisting Andrew never made the comment and would never use such language.

However, Mr Silva, who is from a Sri Lankan background, says he “walked blinking into the sunshine outside Buckingham Palace, reeling at the prince’s use of language” following the meeting.

“For a long time afterwards I kicked myself for not confronting the prince on his choice of words – and it’s something I still regret today. He clearly wasn’t taken to task very often by the people around him, which meant offensive language could go unchallenged.”

Mr Silva said the private meeting was attended by him, the prince, and a royal aide, making it harder to independently verify the claim.

The phrase originated in early 19th century US, relating to slaves attempting to hide in piles of wood while fleeing, later becoming a phrase used to mean an “unknown factor affecting a situation in an adverse way”.

The Atlantic has previously quoted a linguistics professor saying the “the phrase was used by middle-class speakers in conversation in the UK the 1950s and ’60s”, aided by its usage in works by Agatha Christie and Dr Seuss.

Prince Andrew previously worked as a trade envoy for the UK, earning the nickname “Airmiles Andy” as he travelled the world, often at taxpayers’ expense, to hold events in the name of British business.

The former Cameron aide, who championed tech policy while in Downing Street, left government in 2013 and now runs the co-working space Second Home. He recounted the meeting in his column for Evening Standard, which is edited by his former boss George Osborne.

He said this was the second Buckingham Palace meeting with Prince Andrew where he had felt uncomfortable with the language used.

Mr Silva claimed the previous year Prince Andrew told him in another discussion on trade policy: “What you have got to remember is that you’ll never get anywhere by playing the white man.”

Mr Silva added: “I genuinely didn’t know what he meant, and the discussion moved on. But the phrase ‘playing the white man’ stuck in my head, as I’d never heard it before. So when I got back to my desk, I immediately googled it. The definition flashed up on my screen: an old-fashioned saying, used during colonial times, meaning that only white people can be trusted to follow the rules, unlike dark-skinned natives.” – Guardian