Buckingham Palace is coming under mounting pressure to take action over racism claims made by the Duchess of Sussex, as her bombshell interview with husband Prince Harry airs on prime-time TV in the UK.
There was silence from the palace as shockwaves swept around the world from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s tell-all chat with Oprah Winfrey, which included a series of stunning revelations and an admission fom Harry that racism was a “large part” of the couple’s decision to leave the UK.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the couple’s allegations – including that a member of the family raised “concerns” about their son Archie’s skin colour and that Meghan was persuaded against seeking help when feeling suicidal – should be taken “very, very seriously”, and a member of his frontbench team called for a full investigation to be launched by the Palace.
But Boris Johnson refused to comment, beyond saying that he had “the highest admiration for the Queen and the unifying role that she plays in our country and across the Commonwealth”.
However, foreign office minister Zac Goldsmith – a close friend of the prime minister – responded to suggestions that the couple had “dropped bomb after heavy bomb” on the palace with a tweet saying: “Not ‘Buckingham Palace’ – Harry’s family”.
Apparently pointing the finger of blame for the controversy at the prince’s wife, Lord Goldsmith said: “Harry is blowing up his family. What Meghan wants, Meghan gets.”
Winfrey said that Prince Harry had ruled out the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh as the source of comments about Archie’s colour, though he did not put any other royal in the clear.
The interviewer told CBS This Morning that she was surprised the couple – speaking shortly after ceasing all royal duties – had opened up about Meghan’s experience of racism within the palace.
“Even on the tape you can hear me go ‘Whoa, I cannot believe you are saying this right now’,” she said.
In the interview Meghan said that when she was pregnant with Archie, an unnamed member of the royal family raised “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born”.
The couple also suggested the royal family were jealous of Meghan and the duchess revealed she contemplated killing herself while pregnant.
Labour’s shadow education secretary Kate Green described the comments about Archie as “really distressing – shocking”.
Ms Green told Sky News: “If there are allegations of racism, I would expect them to be treated by the Palace with the utmost seriousness and fully investigated.”
She added: “There’s never any excuse in any circumstances for racism and I think it is important that action is taken to investigate what are really shocking allegations.”
Asked if the royal family needed to respond to the claims, Ms Green said: “I’m sure that the Palace will be thinking very carefully about that, and I certainly think people will be wondering what is going to be said.”
But Sir Keir notably declined to repeat her call when asked four times whether there should be an investigation into the claims.
“I think they need to be taken very, very seriously,” he said. “They are allegations in relation to race and to mental health.
“For too many years – this is bigger than the Royal Family – we’ve been too dismissive. We can’t do that.
“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.”
Asked whether the institution of the monarchy is fit for purpose, Starmer said: “Well 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.”
Meanwhile, Labour backbencher Nadia Whittome tweeted: “When Meghan Markle was accused of bullying, Buckingham Palace immediately announced an investigation.
“Now that Meghan has revealed comments about her child’s skin colour, will they investigate racism in the Palace? I won’t be holding my breath.”
Mr Johnson dodged questions on the royal crisis at a Downing Street press conference.
Asked whether an investigation was needed, the prime minister said: “I have always had the highest admiration for the Queen and the unifying role that she plays in our country and across the Commonwealth.”
But on “all other matters to do with the royal family, I have spent a long time now not commenting on royal family matters and I don’t intend to depart from that today”.
Pressed on whether he believed the royal family was racist, he again refused to comment.
“I really think that when it comes to matters to do with the royal family, the right thing for prime ministers to say is nothing – and nothing is the thing that I propose to say today about that particular matter.”
Earlier, children’s minister Vicky Ford told BBC Breakfast she had not seen the interview but added: “There’s no place for racism in our society and we all need to work together to stop it.”