Disclaimer: This post reflects a considered opinion.
This one shouldn’t even be a hot take. It has been long known that the royal family has a lengthy racist past (and present) that has yet to be apologized for by any member of the royal family. During her 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II never once acknowledged her family’s racist roots. However, her death and a new monarch present an opportunity to get off on the right foot. And this would start with an apology from the institution that has harmed so many.
A Dark History
The royal family played a significant role in the slave trade, with Queen Elizabeth I supporting Captain John Hawkins, who captured 300 Africans and exchanged them for a variety of resources. She even gave him a vessel to help transport African slaves. The Church of England also played a role in perpetuating the slave trade, and since the monarch is the head of this church, whoever this is (aka Charles) needs to step in and apologize.
Nothing has changed in relation to the royal family proving that they are, in fact, an institution grounded in systemic racism. In the past couple of years, talks of racism have been most prevalent in regard to Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who is bi-racial. In an interview with Oprah in 2021, she (not so) shockingly revealed that an unnamed royal family member expressed concern with how “dark” her son’s skin would be.
Recently, in their Netflix documentary, Harry spoke of the “unconscious bias” surrounding race in the royal family, which prevented them from understanding why Meghan was more vulnerable in the press and needed more protection.
Meghan’s experience isn’t the only time a working royal has been accused of racism. The royal family has been embroiled in controversies for as long as anyone can remember, including Harry himself. In 2005, he wore a Nazi costume to a party. In addressing this controversy in his memoir, Spare, he claimed that Willliam and Kate persuaded him to wear it to the “Native and Colonial” (also extremely problematic) themed party.
Seeds of hope seem to be spreading that the family will finally do something to take responsibility and do better. King Charles has in fact acknowledged the slave trade as being “appalling” and seems to be ready to take steps in the right direction.
So, what might this entail? First, King Charles needs to apologize for the harm done to racial minorities by his ancestors’ actions. He should acknowledge that racism is still prevalent in the institution today. But he also needs to express a commitment and a plan to take steps toward healing and to right all the wrongs that his institution has caused. Speaking with racial minorities would constitute an important step too.
King Charles’s coronation, slated for May 6 this year presents an opportunity. Will the royal family finally do the right thing?
Atad, C. (2023, January 9). Prince Harry says royal family are ‘not racist,’ but have ‘unconscious bias’. ET Canada. https://etcanada.com/news/957222/prince-harry-says-royal-family-are-not-racist-but-have-unconscious-bias/
BBC. (2023, January 25). King Charles: His coronation – what we know so far. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-63543019
Ebrahimi, S. (2022, November 8). King Charles ‘ready to discuss Britain’s role in the slave trade’. The National News. https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/uk-news/2022/11/09/king-charles-ready-to-discuss-britains-role-in-the-slave-trade/
Friel, M., Hosie, R., & Mitchell T. S. (2022, September 8). The British royal family has turned a blind eye to its racist past. Insider. https://www.insider.com/british-royal-family-racist-history-black-lives-matter-2020-8
Nathan, S. (2023, January 4). Prince Harry claims William and Kate Middleton told him to wear Nazi costume. Page Six. https://pagesix.com/2023/01/04/prince-harry-claims-william-and-kate-middleton-told-him-to-buy-nazi-costume/
Rawlinson, K. (2018, November 5). Prince Charles says Britain’s role in slave trade was an atrocity. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/05/prince-charles-says-britains-part-in-transatlantic-slave-trade-was-atrocity
Chernin, S. (2005). [New York Post featuring a “Royal Nazi” headline] [Photograph]. Getty Images. https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/a42190442/prince-harry-nazi-costume-comments-netflix-series/
Grant, A. (2022). [King Charles reading the queen’s speech] [Photograph]. WPA Pool/Gerry Images. https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2022/10/king-charles-smaller-coronation-still-be-a-spectacle
Pugliese, J. (2021). [Meghan and Harry during Oprah interview] [Photograph]. Harpo Productions. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/08/world/europe/recap-of-harry-meghan-oprah-interview.html