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Racism, White Supremacy and the British Royal Family

In May 2018, Prince Harry, sixth in line to the British throne, married the American actress Meghan Markle, whose mother is African American and whose father is white, much to the delight of commentators eager to witness the modernization of a 1,000-year-old, historically white institution. It was widely assumed that Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, would serve as goodwill ambassadors to the Commonwealth nations, many of which are comprised of majority populations of color, and help to usher the British royal family into the 21st century. Gesturing toward her anticipated future role in "the Firm,” Meghan’s bridal veil featured embroidered flora representative of each of the 53 British Commonwealth countries.

The prospect of a more inclusive, modernized monarchy embodied by the union of Prince Harry and Meghan was short lived, however. Eight months after welcoming their first child, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, the Sussexes announced in January 2020 that they were "stepping back” as senior royals. They intended to divide their time between the UK and North America and attain financial independence. The couple did not delve into the specifics behind this sudden break with the Firm. But it is no secret that Meghan, a woman of African ancestry, has faced persistent racist and sexist attacks from the British media and online.

The press has speculated that her "rich and exotic DNA” would thicken the Windsors’ "watery, thin blue blood”; described Meghan as "(almost) straight outta Compton”; discussed how her family "went from cotton slaves to royalty”; and compared her newborn son to a chimpanzee. The underlying message of this media coverage – which is often couched in satire, a longstanding vehicle for spreading racist ideologies – is that Meghan, the daughter of a Black woman descended from enslaved Africans, will taint the British monarchy.

One might assume the Sussexes’ wealth and status would insulate them from offensive comments, or that the royal family has offered emotional support and protection as Meghan weathered mounting racist attacks. But Oprah Winfrey’s explosive interview with Prince Harry and Meghan dispels that notion.

According to the couple, not only did the Firm fail to correct the damaging tabloid narrative around Meghan, during her first pregnancy unnamed members of the royal family voiced concerns to Prince Harry about how dark their unborn child’s skin might be. Following speculation that Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, initiated these conversations due to his well-known history of offhanded racist remarks, Oprah issued a follow-up statement clarifying that the discussions about the baby’s skin color did not involve Prince Harry’s grandparents.


The current queen’s distant ancestors launched England into the trans-Atlantic slave trade and are responsible for the enslavement and death of millions of African captives. In 1672, Charles II chartered the Royal African Company with the intention of supplying enslaved Africans to England’s Caribbean and North American plantation colonies. His younger brother, James, Duke of York, was the Company’s honorary governor and its largest shareholder. The Royal African Company represented the culmination of over a century of small-scale slave trading initiatives endorsed by the English monarchy, beginning with Elizabeth I’s support of John Hawkins’ slaving expeditions in the 1560s to deliver African captives to Spanish America.

The Stuart and Hanoverian monarchs promoted and profited personally from the expansion of African slave trading and colonial slavery, and oversaw the development of a vast, exploitative empire that strengthened mainland Britain and the royal family at the expense of marginalized peoples across Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.

Read entire article at Der Spiegel