Seven words Prince William can’t escape

The Duke of Cambridge gave a powerful speech this week, but even a future king cannot ignore the ghosts of the past.

In hindsight, the white suit was not a good idea.

On Tuesday this week, William and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were back, helping to unveil a new national monument at Waterloo station in London.

So what did the Duchess, who has shown a cheerful propensity for business attire lately, choose for the occasion? A crisp two-piece set from Alexander McQueen that was stark white.

An online post then quickly sprung up with the doozy of a headline, “Kate Middleton Looks Business Chic in White Suit to Celebrate Windrush Day.”

The problem here is a) the term “white power” is clearly a deeply problematic term and its use is only when compounded when you realize that b) Windrush Day celebrates the thousands of people from Caribbean nations who have emigrated in the UK after World War II and who were at times treated terribly by the British government.

The thing about Kate’s costume is that it was emblematic of one unfortunate thing: the couple has a racism problem.

Before anyone starts screaming, let me be very clear here: I am not accusing the Duke and Duchess of being racist, of having racist beliefs or of knowingly doing a single thing that would earn them praise from the MAGA crowd.

However, when it comes to anything vaguely close to skin color and prejudice, the Cambridges are at sea.

The specter of racism is one that has hung over the entire House of Windsor since March last year when Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, appeared on television screens worldwide to speak out against their treatment at the hands of the palace.

The Duchess said that when she was pregnant with her son Archie, there were “concerns and conversations about how dark her skin was when she was born”. She also told Winfrey of her unborn child, “They didn’t want him to be a prince or a princess. He wasn’t going to get bail.

Meanwhile, Harry referred to the fact that “more than 70 female MPs, Conservative and Labor, have come out and denounced the colonial undertones of articles and headlines written about Meghan”.

“Yet nobody in my family ever said anything. It hurts,” he said.

Buckingham Palace’s response to the interview and their claims was stony silence for nearly two full days, before issuing a lip-smacking statement saying that ‘the issues raised, particularly that of race, are of concern’. however, “memories may vary”.

The only HRH to comment publicly on the scathing allegations was William who later that same week told reporters: ‘We really aren’t a racist family.

In the 15 months that followed, not another word was said on the subject by a single Windsor senior.

The royal strategy seemed to be to treat the situation like a bear attack; stand still and hope the danger passes. But despite everything the Palace might have hoped the world would move on and simply forget about the Sussexes’ allegations of racism, they clearly didn’t.

In a poll taken after Oprah, ethnic minority Britons said they thought the royal family was racist by a margin of 43% compared to 27% who disagreed.

Meanwhile, in a study carried out in June this year, almost equal proportions of 18-24 year olds think the UK should become a republic.

The fact is, the Sussexes’ comments were not made in a vacuum but against the racial calculus of the Black Lives Matter movement that has resounded resoundingly on British shores. Statues have been toppled and in the months since, 69 tributes to slave traders and colonialists in Britain have either been removed or altered since then.

In this context, it would be a serious error of judgment if William and Kate continued to turn a blind eye to the fact that, thanks to the Sussexes, the royal family has, for many, become synonymous with bigotry.

Again, I’m not saying they’re racist, but now that charges have been laid, they can’t hope they will magically go away.

The longer no one with an HRH responds adequately and meaningfully to the Sussexes’ claims, the worse they look.

Moreover, how can William or Kate morally or intellectually try to present themselves as supporters of equality when the family and the institution they represent have been accused of contemporary racism?

How can they hope to have any credibility on the matter when Meghan’s claims are still at the forefront of public consciousness?

There’s a much bigger situation at play here, obviously.

Even if the Duke and Duchess of Sussex hadn’t uttered an inflammatory word, the centuries of colonial rule presided over by British kings and queens is hardly something that can be swept under the rug or politely ignored.

Over three million men, women and children were abducted and shipped to the Caribbean. Between the 1660s and 1680s, the English in Barbados instituted the Slave Code, defining slaves as non-humans who were, according to the UN, “‘pagans’ and ‘thugs’ unfit to be ruled by the same laws as Christians”.

It was around the exact same time – 1689 to be precise – when William III, who owned half of the Royal African Company and who profited enormously from the slave trade, bought a modest “cottage” and made it his palace. of Kensington.

This is, of course, where the Cambridge family currently lives.

Or take the Imperial Crown, which Kate might wear when crowned queen and which features the 186-carat Koh-I-Noor diamond.

There is not a single object that better exemplifies what has been called the British Empire’s “state-sponsored theft” campaign. The Pakistani and Indian governments have repeatedly demanded the return of the jewel.

In 2020 campaigners called for an overhaul of the Order of St Michael and St George, one of the highest royal orders, given that the image on the gong depicts a white angel with his foot on the head of a black angel.

None of these – the palace, the diamond or the honor – are created by the current members of the royal family but for which they are still responsible, at the very least, speaking of the more problematic aspects of the past of the monarchy.

They can’t all argue that the echoes of colonialism and racism aren’t yet woven into parts of royal life.

I can predict the arguments many people will make at this point: it’s impossible to prove that you’re not a racist or that the empire collapsed a long time ago; it’s not like it was the Cambridges themselves who enslaved millions as they mined assets in the open. Why should the Duke and Duchess pay for the sins of their ancestors?

However, if William and Kate want the monarchy to become a relevant and useful institution in British public life, that is, to survive, then they cannot claim that previous heads of the same body have not benefited enormously. of the brutality and suffering of the people. of color.

Stubborn silence is not an option here.

Obviously, they can’t change the past, but they can acknowledge it more openly.

Likewise, the accusations of Harry and Meghan. I’m not suggesting a war of words they said/they said, but the Royal Family has yet to come up with some sort of substantive response.

If William wants to be a leader, he can’t just make the issue of racism big and hope that everyone will be suitably dazzled by his progress on climate change or homelessness and forget to care.

Seven derisory words – “We’re really not a racist family” – just won’t cut it.

The Duke cannot overlook, ignore or show charity that a very clear line can be drawn between the horrors of the monarchy’s past and those of today.

What would be amazing to see is William taking part in some kind of national conversation about race in the UK and/or accepting a very frank public discussion about the monarchy’s dark past. After all, admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?

Or the Duke and Duchess could start much closer to home, given that on their team, “diversity” means people who went to public school. Not one of the senior executives at the Cambridges is a person of color. (Overall, only 8.5% of royal employees are from ethnic minorities.)

Perhaps had they had non-white advisers, their Caribbean tour earlier this year might not have derailed so dramatically, with the couple pictured shaking hands with black children through a fence and inspecting Jamaican troops while dressed as two extras from Outside of Africa.

The week-long jaunt only reinforced the impression many had that the royal family is an inherently antiquated and useless relic with no place in 21st century life.

During his speech at the opening of the Waterloo monument this week, William said the Windrush generation had been “deeply wronged” before later saying that “discrimination remains an all too familiar experience for black men and women in Britain in 2022”.

It was an energetic speech, but future kings cannot survive on passionate speeches alone.

William and Kate need to seize the day here; they have the ability to be remembered by history for all the right reasons and not the wrong ones.

Daniela Elser is a royal pundit and writer with over 15 years of experience working with a number of top media titles in Australia.

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