Boston, United States (AFP)
Prince William and wife Kate began their first visit to America in eight years Wednesday under the cloud of a fresh racism row after his godmother quit the royal household for repeatedly asking a Black British woman where she was “really” from.
The Prince and Princess of Wales met Boston mayor Michelle Wu and governor-elect Maura Healey at the city hall and then sat courtside at a Boston Celtics versus Miami Heat NBA game as they kickstarted their three-day trip focused on climate change.
The beginning of the visit — which comes after racism claims from William’s brother Harry and mixed-race sister-in-law, Meghan — was however overshadowed by the resignation and apology of 83-year-old Susan Hussey, one of William’s six godmothers.
“Racism has no place in our society,” a spokesman for the royal couple told reporters in Boston.
“These comments were unacceptable, and it’s right that the individual has stepped aside with immediate effect.”
William was not involved in the decision but “believes it’s the right course of action to be taken”, the spokesman added.
The trip is the royal couple’s first one overseas since the 40-year-old William became heir to the throne in September, when his father succeeded queen Elizabeth II to become King Charles III.
They last visited the United States in 2014 when they went to New York and Washington, in a trip that included a reception at the White House with the then-president Barack Obama and his deputy, Joe Biden.
The White House said Biden will meet the royal couple on Friday.
– Awards –
It is also their first trip stateside since Harry and Meghan sensationally quit the royal family in early 2020. No meeting has been announced between the estranged brothers.
The visit will culminate on Friday evening with a star-studded ceremony for William’s Earthshot Prize initiative to tackle climate change.
The awards ceremony — described by royal insiders as William’s “Superbowl moment” — is now in its second year, and rewards five innovators with £1 million each ($1.2 million).
A host of stars are expected at Boston’s MGM Music Hall, including singers Billie Eilish and Annie Lennox, sisters Chloe x Halle, and actor Rami Malek.
Other engagements include discussions with local officials about rising sea levels in the city on the North Atlantic coast.
They will also meet charities working with disadvantaged young people and a laboratory specializing in green technologies.
“We are both looking forward to spending the next few days learning about the innovative ways the people of Massachusetts are tackling climate change,” William told cheering crowds outside city hall.
Hussey is a longstanding former lady-in-waiting to William’s late grandmother, queen Elizabeth II and was a courtier to Queen Consort Camilla.
She was portrayed in Season Five of the hit Netflix series, “The Crown,” the recent release of which has driven US interest in the House of Windsor up even further.
Ngozi Fulani, the chief executive of the London-based Sistah Space group which campaigns for survivors of domestic abuse, said the comments came as she attended a palace reception on Tuesday.
Asked where she was from, Fulani said Hackney, northeast London, prompting the woman whom she identified only as “Lady SH” to ask: “No, what part of Africa are you from?”
Fulani said she was born and raised in the UK and was British but the woman persisted.
“Where do you really come from, where do your people come from?… When did you first come here?” she was asked.
Fulani repeated that she was a British national born in the UK and was forced to say she was “of African heritage, Caribbean descent.”
Women’s Equality Party leader Mandu Reid, who witnessed the exchange, called it “grim” and like an “interrogation.”
– ‘Unacceptable’ –
Buckingham Palace said it took the incident “extremely seriously” and called the comments “unacceptable and deeply regrettable.”
“In the meantime, the individual concerned would like to express her profound apologies for the hurt caused and has stepped aside from her honorary role with immediate effect.” it added.
British media outlets all quoted palace sources as confirming it was Hussey who made the remarks.
Camilla has scrapped the formal roles of ladies in waiting, but Hussey, whose late husband was a former BBC chairman, was kept on as a royal retainer by King Charles III.
Last year, William insisted “we are very much not a racist family”, after Harry and Meghan — who have won many fans among younger people and in the Black community for taking on the British establishment — alleged that an unidentified royal had asked what color skin their baby would have.
© Agence France-Presse