Lady Susan Hussey row: 'Are we saying that because you're 83 you can’t be racist?'

ASCOT, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 15: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Prince Charles, Prince of Wales watches the racing through binoculars as he and Lady Susan Hussey (Lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth II) attend day 2 of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse on June 15, 2022 in Ascot, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Charles and Lady Susan Hussey at Royal Ascot. (Getty Images)

The Royal Family has been plunged into another racism scandal following the comments of an 83-year-old senior palace aide to a Black charity campaigner.

Lady Susan Hussey, a long-term member of the Royal Household, repeatedly asked Ngozi Fulani where she was from at a Buckingham Palace reception earlier this week, at one point even asking: "What part of Africa are you from?".

Lady Susan's actions have been roundly condemned and have been accepted as racist by the palace.

Some have argued the comments have exposed an institutional issue in the palace. Indeed, in March 2021 it emerged that the Royal Family was reviewing its diversity policies following charges of racism laid by Meghan Markle in her interview with Oprah.

Britain's Queen Consort Camilla (R) speaks to guests near Ngozi Fulani (back L), chief executive of the London-based Sistah Space group, during a reception to raise awareness of violence against women and girls as part of the UN 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, at Buckingham Palace in London on November 29, 2022. - Buckingham Palace apologised and a member of the royal household has quit after a black British charity campaigner was repeatedly asked where she
Ngozi Fulani attended a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by Camilla to raise awareness of violence against women and girls. (Getty Images)

And in their response to the Lady Susan scandal, the palace acknowledged that "all members of the household are being reminded of the diversity and inclusivity policies".

The issue of Lady Susan's age has also sparked debate, with some commentators arguing she should be afforded some leniency because of her age; the phrase 'She's 83' also trended on social media following the revelations.

Writer and broadcaster Petronella Wyatt is close to the royals and has known Lady Susan since she was 18.

She said that "poor Susan Hussey is 83" adding she believed this "must be the first time [Hussey] has ever offended anyone" and that "this will ruin her life".

Undated handout photo issued by Sistah Space of Ngozi Fulani, chief executive of Sistah Space. The prominent black advocate for survivors of domestic abuse has revealed how she was repeatedly asked by a member of the Buckingham Palace household at the Queen Consort's reception where she
Ngozi Fulani, chief executive of Sistah Space. (Sistah Space/PA)

The sentiment was also expressed by the government's social mobility tsar, Katherine Birbalsingh, who write on Twitter: "Lady Susan is 83. Where has forgiveness gone?"

Lady Susan has resigned her honorary position as Lady of the Household and a statement from the palace said that she wished "to express her profound apologies".

Fulani has also addressed the issue around age, asking: "Are we saying you can't be racist because of your age"?

She added: "I’ve heard so many suggestions it’s about her age and stuff like that. And I think that’s a kind of a disrespect about ageism".

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 16: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Queen Elizabeth II accompanied by her Lady-in-Waiting Lady Susan Hussey departs after attending the Gold Service Scholarship awards ceremony at Claridge's on February 16, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II accompanied by Lady Susan Hussey at Claridges. Hussey was her lady-in-waiting since 1960 until the monarch's death. (Getty Images)

Fulani, however, has also said that Lady Susan quitting her role was not an outcome she wanted, and that there could be a greater focus on education rather than vilification.

“My nature is not that somebody of senior years should be vilified even though she did it to herself. I don’t want to be part of that. I’m old school.

"This is an elder and that’s not an excuse, but I’m thinking why don’t we just do something different such as pull her up, re-educate, demote her, keep her from public-facing roles? Having been in this position for decades, it’s horrible that she goes out like this because of ignorance and racism.”

KIDLINGTON, OXFORDSHIRE - JUNE 11: Emily Benn interviews Luciana Berger and Mandu Reid during Kite Festival 2022 at Kirtlington Park on June 11, 2022 in Kidlington, Oxfordshire. (Photo by Lorne Thomson/Getty Images)
Mandu Reid at Kite Festival 2022 in Kidlington, Oxfordshire. (Getty Images)

Mandu Reid, the leader of the Women's Equality Party and who witnessed the incident, said cutting Lady Susan loose from the Royal Household is an insufficient response to accusations of "institutional racism".

Reid said: "Zooming in on the individual [...] reminds me of that bad apple approach" which "minimises" the issue at hand.

Regardless of age, no institution can tolerate racism, particularly not one that purports to represent the entire country.

This most recent incident makes it very difficult for Charles's supposedly modern monarchy to demonstrate that it really is moving with the times. Particularly when the shadow of Meghan's own accusations of racism - made in 2021 - have never really been addressed.

KING'S LYNN, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 25:  Prince Charles; Prince of Wales Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on December 25, 2017 in King's Lynn, England.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Charles attending the Christmas day service at Sandringham with Harry and Meghan and the rest of the Royal Family. (Getty Images)

And the way the Palace responded to Meghan – with the now-infamous statement saying "recollections may vary" – may now be seen as though they were dismissing an issue that needed to be addressed much more urgently.

As Reid noted on Newsnight, during the reception she and Fulani attended at the palace where the comments were made, the Queen Consort spoke about the importance of believing victims.

While the Royal Family seem to understand believe this in principle, they have yet to prove they can apply this within the institution itself.