Newly surfaced documents reveal that Britain’s Buckingham Palace, the seat of the royal family, kept people of color out of certain jobs up until at least the late 1960s, the Guardian newspaper reports. The revelation could add to the already terse discussion over race and the UK royals.
According to the report, papers found at the British National Archives as part of the newspaper’s investigation into a parliamentary procedure that the royal officials have allegedly used to influence lawmaking also showed that Buckingham Palace negotiated clauses that made Queen Elizabeth II and her family exempt from laws that would prevent racial and sex discrimination.
As a result, for example, in 1968, the Queen’s financial manager told civil servants that “it was not, in fact, the practice to appoint coloured immigrants or foreigners” to clerical jobs, even though they could work in a domestic capacity, according to the Guardian.
Officials at Buckingham Palace said records showed people of color working for the Royal Family during the 1990s and before that it did not keep records of their employees’ racial backgrounds.
The officials said that the Queen and her courtiers are compliant with anti-discrimination laws.
“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,” an unidentified palace spokesman told the Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity.
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British Parliament approved laws against discrimination in the 1970s, but the Guardian claims the documents show that the Queen’s advisors had manipulated its wording. Buckingham Palace did not deny the exemption, but said there was a “separate process” for dealing with discrimination complaints.
The 1970s law allowed complainants of workplace racial discrimination in general to go to court to seek redress. But loopholes arranged by Buckingham Palace prior to that allowed for what is called “Queens Consent” which allows a monarch to let parliament debate laws that affect her specifically. It resulted in officials moving with vague legal language to ensure the Queen could be exempt from certain rules in emerging racial discrimination laws. Ultimately the result was the UK Race Relations Board being responsible for sending discrimination complants to the British Home Secretary, a position somewhat like the U.S. Attorney General, rather than the courts.
The controversy feeds into the discussion on racism within the royal family raised by Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, who in a March interview with Oprah Winfrey alleged that before their son Archie was born, a member of the family commented on how “dark” his skin might be. Harry’s brother, Prince William, responded to the issue saying: “We're very much not a racist family.”
Markle and Harry have chosen to leave their royal duties and move to the United States.
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