Buckingham Palace is defending itself amid unearthed claims that it banned members of ethnic minorities and foreigners from holding certain jobs in Queen Elizabeth II‘s royal household and remains exempt to this day from UK laws that prevent race and sex discrimination.
The news comes amid renewed interest in the past and present attitudes of the royal family towards race and more than two months after Meghan Markle told Oprah Winfrey that there were “concerns and conversations” by her husband Prince Harry‘s relatives—which he later said did not include the queen or her late husband Prince Philip—about the skin color of their first baby.
On Wednesday, June 2, The Guardian reported that according to newly discovered documents from the government’s National Archives, the queen’s courtiers banned “coloured immigrants or foreigners” from serving in clerical roles in the royal household until at least the late 1960s, only allowing them to work as domestic servants.
“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,” a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said in a statement to E! News in response to The Guardian report. “The principles of Crown Application and Crown Consent are long established and widely known.”
The UK newspaper also reported that the unearthed papers show that in the 1970s, Buckingham Palace negotiated with government officials to include clauses in racial and sexual equality laws that would exempt the monarch’s household from laws that prevent race and sex discrimination, adding that to this day, to this day, these clauses prohibit its employees from suing for alleged discrimination at work.
Buckingham Palace said in their statement, “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.”
Buckingham Palace did not elaborate on what this process entails.
Meghan, who is biracial and has often been the target of racism by tabloids and social media users, made her bombshell accusations about the royal family’s alleged concerns regarding her child, Archie Harrison, a year after she and Harry quit the monarchy. Weeks after their interview with Oprah aired, Harry’s brother Prince William told a reporter, “We are very much not a racist family.” Later that month, the BBC reported that Buckingham Palace was reviewing diversity policies across all royal households.
The Guardian also said the palace said its records showed people from ethnic minority backgrounds being employed in the 1990s. It added that before that decade, it did not keep records on the racial backgrounds of employees.