A member of the Buckingham Palace household has resigned after making “unacceptable and deeply regrettable” comments at a reception held by the Queen Consort.
Ngozi Fulani, chief executive of domestic abuse charity Sistah Space, said she was repeatedly asked by the household member where she “really came from” during a reception held at the palace on Tuesday (29 November). She had been invited to an event raising awareness for violence against women and girls, but said most of it is “a blur” after the encounter.
Writing on Twitter, Ms Fulani, who is a promiment black advocate for survivors of domestic abuse, described how despite telling the staff member her organisation was based in Hackney, London, and that she herself was British, she was asked “what part of Africa are YOU from?” and where “[her] people” come from. She was also reportedly told, “oh, you’re Caribbean!”, when she said her parents came to the UK in the 50s.
Buckingham Palace has said in a statement: “We take this incident extremely seriously and have investigated immediately to establish the full details. In this instance, unacceptable and deeply regrettable comments have been made. We have reached out to Ngozi Fulani on this matter, and are inviting her to discuss all elements of her experience in person if she wishes.
“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. All members of the Household are being reminded of the diversity and inclusivity policies which they are required to uphold at all times.”
The Sunday Times, Mirror and MailOnline have named the staff member as Lady Susan Hussey, who was a close friend of Queen Elizabeth II.
Ms Fulani has described her encounter as a “violation” and said the experience of “not knowing what to do will NEVER leave me.” She also thanked Mandu Reid, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, and Suzanne Jacob, chief executive of domestive violence charity Safe Lives, for their support on the day.
Ms Reid, who is the first person of colour to lead a national political party in British history and who was beside Ms Fulnani for the exchange with the Royal staffer told PA: “We really felt ‘oh, OK, we’re being treated almost like trespassers in this place’. We’re not being treated as if we belong, we’re not being embraced as if we are British.”
She described the exchange as “grim” and like an “interrogation”, adding: “She was really persistent. She didn’t take Ngozi’s answers at face value.” Ms Jacob meanwhile tweeted that it was “a horrible thing to happen, and in a space that should have been nothing but love and celebration”, adding that she would be raising it with the team who organised for them to be there.
Sistah Space provides “specialist support for African and Caribbean heritage women” who have been affected by domestic and sexual abuse. The organisation is currently fundraising £100,00 to create a “beautiful” specialist refuge for victims and their children.
Ms Fulani was invited to Buckingham Palace to attend a reception which aimed to raise awareness for violence against women and girls. It was being held by the Queen Consort Camilla, who told the roughly 300 guests of her determination to “remember and to listen” to survivors’ stories, which she said were two of the most powerful ways to help.
The matter comes after similar concerns have previously been raised with the Palace, where an unnamed member of the royal family was accused by the Duchess of Sussex last year of racism against her unborn son, Archie.
Meghan, the first mixed race person to marry a senior royal for centuries, said during her Oprah Winfrey interview that a royal – not the Queen nor the Duke of Edinburgh – had expressed concerns to Harry about how dark Archie’s skin tone might be. The Queen issued a statement saying that the issues raised would be dealt with privately as a family, but that “some recollections may vary”.