Monday briefing: Meghan claims royal race hostility

Martin Farrer
·8-min read

Top story: Couple say palace failed to protect them

Morning everyone. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the top stories this morning.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have revealed concerns were voiced in the royal family ahead of the birth of their son Archie about what colour skin he might have in a stunning allegation that will send shock waves through the institution. Speaking to Oprah Winfrey in a hotly anticipated broadcast interview, the couple widened the gulf between themselves and the royals as Meghan revealed that she had felt suicidal after she joined the family. It was “almost unsurvivable”, she said, adding that she had felt she “just didn’t want to be alive any more”. Before the couple controversially quit their royal duties to live in the United States, she said palace officials had tried to silence her and had not allowed her to respond to media stories.

The couple spoke in glowing terms about the Queen, but Harry revealed that his relationship with Prince Charles had deteriorated and that he felt “let down”. The prince said he was shocked by the questions raised by members of his family about Archie’s skin colour but refused to say who had been involved in the discussions. Meghan also revisited tabloid claims that she had made the Duchess of Cambridge cry in a row over bridesmaids’ dresses, but alleged Kate had in fact made her cry. Here are 12 key things we learned from the bombshell interview. You can also follow all the reaction at our live blog.

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International Women’s Day – More than half of women in the UK believe that the social impact of the coronavirus pandemic risks setting gender equality back decades after a year in which they bore the brunt of job losses, home schooling and domestic chores. Women are increasingly fearful about their futures, with almost half of those surveyed in a Mumsnet poll for International Women’s Day expecting gender equality to go into reverse over the next few years. Three-quarters of women said that during lockdown it was easier for their partner to work uninterrupted. The UK impact on women has worsened because the policy response suffered from the lack of a female perspective, women’s leaders say. The fight for equality has come a long way since the 1960s, Polly Toynbee says, but the pandemic has shown how far there is to go.

The pensions firm Scottish Widows calculates that young women will have to work nearly 40 years longer than their male peers to build up the same retirement pot. They can expect to have about £100,000 less than a man of the same age, the study says. Another survey for IWD says one-third of women who have suffered symptoms of the menopause say they hid them at work, and many think there remains a stigma around the subject. The historian Kate Mosse has written about how the stories of long-forgotten female footballers, fossil hunters and warrior queens are being reclaimed; we look at a new book collating diary entries from teenage girls around the world; and there’s a host of other content at our International Women’s Day page.

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School Covid ‘shambles’ – Headteachers have described the government’s plan for helping disadvantaged pupils catch up after the disruption of coronavirus as chaotic and confusing, ahead of today’s full reopening of schools across England. A survey of 150 schools in the north-east found only 20% had engaged with the much-vaunted national tutoring programme, with one calling it a “shambles”. The education secretary Gavin Williamson has promised to transform schools with longer days and a move to a five-term academic year as a means to help pupils regain lost ground. But the head of Ofsted warned that any changes must be supported by evidence and have the backing of parents. Amid concern about pay for NHS staff, Boris Johnson is being criticised for earmarking £9m for a new situation room in Whitehall. In better news for ministers, the UK has recorded its lowest daily deaths since October, with 82 people dying yesterday from Covid. People will also be able to visit loved ones in care homes in person from today as part of the first phase of lockdown easing in England. Catch up with this and other developments in the pandemic at our live blog.

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Yemen appeal – In a message of rare bluntness, the head of the UN’s Office for Humanitarian Affairs has said UK ministers have decided to “balance the books on the backs of the starving people of Yemen”. Mark Lowcock says the decision to halve its funds to Yemen will see tens of thousands die and damage the UK’s global influence. It is understood he was given no chance to appeal to the UK to rethink.

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Barracks blast – At least 20 people have been killed and hundreds injured after a series of explosions at a barracks in Equatorial Guinea. The disaster in the main city of by the president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. He said the impact had damaged almost all the buildings in the city.

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Rangers fans celebrate in Glasgow.
Rangers fans celebrate in Glasgow. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Rangers rage – Nicola Sturgeon has described the actions of Rangers fans as “infuriating and disgraceful” as they took to the streets of Glasgow to celebrate the club’s first Premiership title in 10 years in flagrant disregard for lockdown restrictions. Celtic’s failure to beat Dundee United on Sunday means Rangers are Scottish champions, prompting thousands of fans to gather in George Square and outside Ibrox Stadium to celebrate with singing and flares. Scotland’s first minister rebuked the fans on Twitter and called on club bosses to tell supporters to go home.

Today in Focus podcast

Guardian US reporter Vivian Ho talks to Rachel Humphreys about the rise in anti-Asian hate crime in the US, forcing the country to reckon with a phenomenon that has been overlooked for decades.

Lunchtime read: Slade’s Dave Hill: ‘Music is a healer’

Slade guitarist Dave Hill at home in Staffordshire.
Slade guitarist Dave Hill at home in Staffordshire. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

For people of a certain age, nothing quite defines the 70s as sharply as the sight of Slade dressed in their full glam rock regalia, belting out their hits on Top of the Pops. Half a century on, the band’s guitarist Dave Hill tells Simon Hattenstone about glittering faces, timeless anthems, and how he has survived a stroke, depression and the departure of all three of his former bandmates.


Ole Gunnar Solskjær praised Manchester United’s relentless work rate as his side halted Manchester City’s record run of consecutive wins at 21 and their 28-game unbeaten sequence with a 2-0 victory in the derby at the Etihad Stadium. Jürgen Klopp denied Liverpool had lost their hunger after the Premier League champions’ embarrassing Anfield run extended to six consecutive defeats against relegation-threatened Fulham. Gareth Bale and Harry Kane both scored twice in Tottenham’s 4-1 victory over Crystal Palace, as José Mourinho threw caution to the wind.

Mel Marshall, Adam Peaty’s swimming coach, has spoken to the Guardian about the Olympics and what female coaches bring to the world of sport on International Women’s Day. Katherine Brunt starred as England wrapped up a 3-0 clean sweep in their T20 series against New Zealand with a 32-run victory in Wellington. Roger Federer, the 20-time grand slam winner, plays this week after more than a year out, talking up his chances of more glory. Only four days after her 19th birthday, Keely Hodgkinson produced a performance of supreme poise and power in the 800m to become the youngest British winner of a European indoor athletics title for more than 50 years. Lee Westwood was denied a first win on the PGA Tour since 2010 and what would have ranked among the most impressive of his career after Bryson DeChambeau prevailed at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Eddie Jones has ruled out sweeping personnel changes to England’s starting XV for Saturday’s game against title-chasing France at Twickenham. And more detail could emerge on Monday on the extent to which Gordon Elliott’s six-month ban from training will remove him from day-to-day involvement in his stable.


The French billionaire and politician Olivier Dassault, the grandson of the founder of the aircraft manufacturing company Dassault Aviation, has died in a helicopter crash in Normandy. He was 69. The markets have been up strongly in Asia overnight so the FTSE100 is set to bounce 0.8%. The pound is buying $1.382 and €1.161.

The papers

Several papers produced late editions to catch the royal revelations with the Mail splash headline saying “Meghan accuses palace of racism”. The Mirror goes with the same line: “They asked how dark Archie’s skin would be”, while the Sun has: “Meg: I was suicidal”. The Express also stayed opened late to get the story on the front with “Meghan’s bombshell: Kate made me cry!”.

The Guardian’s lead reads “UK cutting aid ‘on backs of the starving,’ says UN chief”, and the FT is concerned about the latest possible bank crisis: “ECB banking watchdog quizzes lenders over Greensill exposure”. As schools reopen in England, the Telegraph says “Union’s school masks threat”, the i has “UK’s vaccine creator calls for caution as pupils return”, and the Times leads with “We’re close to cutting care, NHS chiefs warn”. The Scotsman says “Twice as many Scots back Sturgeon over Salmond”, but the main picture shows Rangers fans celebrating their team’s title win. The National splashes on Nicola’s Sturgeon’s reaction to the fans’ lockdown-busting antics: “‘Infuriating & disgraceful’”.

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