LONDON: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II responded to explosive racism claims from her grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, voicing deep concern and sympathising with their troubles with royal life.
“The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan,” she said in a statement released by Buckingham Palace.
“The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.” “Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved family members.”
Buckingham Palace has come under mounting pressure to respond to the claims made in an Oprah Winfrey interview, which triggered a crisis unseen since the anguished days of Harry’s late mother, Diana, in the 1990s. It set off a whirl of speculation about the identity of the senior royal who asked how dark their child’s skin would be before he was born.
Meghan also spoke about how she had suicidal thoughts, but failed to receive any support during her time in the royal family. Winfrey was left open-mouthed by the racism claim, which reportedly left the palace in turmoil and scrambling how best to address it.
Prince Charles, Harry’s father and the heir to the throne, earlier ignored a question about what he made of the interview, as he made his first public appearance since the row erupted.
Harry and Meghan’s claims have been likened to a bomb being dropped on Britain’s most famous family and one of the country’s most revered institutions.
Attempts have been made to draw in Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has himself been accused of racism during his time as a newspaper columnist. He refused to comment, even as political calls mounted for a full inquiry and the White House and former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton spoke out.
Zac Goldsmith, a junior British foreign minister and close ally of Johnson, said former army captain Harry was “blowing up his family”. Johnson’s spokesman declined to say whether Goldsmith was speaking for the government.
The level of controversy about the royals has not been seen since the 1990s, during the very public collapse of the marriage of Harry’s parents. Princess Diana collaborated with the author Andrew Morton in a revealing 1992 biography and gave a bombshell BBC television interview in 1995.
In it, she said both she and Prince Charles had been unfaithful, how he was unfit to be king, and that she felt isolated, struggling with self-harm and bulimia.
Meghan’s estranged father Thomas Markle defended the royals, saying he hoped the skin tone comment was “just a dumb question”. “It could just be that simple, it could be somebody asked a stupid question, rather than being a total racist,” he said.
Just over 17 million viewers watched Winfrey’s two-hour interview with Harry and Meghan on US broadcaster CBS on Sunday night. More than 11 million people then tuned in to watch it in full in Britain.
The couple dramatically quit royal life last year and now lives in California with their young son, Archie, and are expecting their second child, a daughter, this summer.