Pressure builds on palace to respond to racism claims made by Harry and Meghan

Pressure is mounting on Buckingham Palace to respond to accusations of racism in the royal family following an explosive interview by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Crisis talks are likely to have been held since the couple’s sit-down with Oprah Winfrey was aired.

Private secretaries will have met and the matters will almost certainly have been discussed with the Queen and the Prince of Wales.

Charles was asked by the media if had seen Meghan and Harry’s interview, during a visit to a pop-up Covid vaccine clinic in a London church.

His response was to chuckle as he walked away.

Palace officials reportedly had a prepared statement highlighting the family’s love and concern for the couple, but it was not signed off by the monarch.

The Times newspaper reported that the Queen wanted more time to consider her response to the lengthy interview.

Meghan and Harry laid bare their brief lives as a working royal couple, alleging that a member of the family – not the Queen or Duke of Edinburgh – made a racist comment about their unborn son.

Winfrey was left open-mouthed when the duchess – the first mixed-race member of the modern monarchy – said a fellow royal was worried about how dark their son Archie’s skin tone might be before he was born.

The interview was aired on Sunday night to US audiences, before being shown in the UK on Monday evening.

During the candid conversation, Meghan suggested her son was not made a prince because of his race – although rules set by George V meant he was not entitled to be one.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the allegations made by the duchess must be taken seriously.

He said: “Nobody, but nobody, should be prejudiced (against) because of the colour of their skin or because of their mental health issues.”

Harry also said it “hurts” that none of his relatives spoke out in support of Meghan following the racism he said she faced in the media.

Oprah Winfrey interview
Harry and Meghan with Oprah Winfrey (ITV Hub/Harpo Productions/CBS/PA)

Meanwhile in the US, where race is recognised to be a big issue, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton backed Meghan.

In a clip shown on BBC Breakfast, she said: “This young woman was not about to keep her head down, you know, this is 2021.”

The duchess also spoke about having suicidal thoughts but said her approaches to the monarchy for help were turned down.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki praised Harry and Meghan’s courage when asked if US President Joe Biden had watched the interview.

Ms Psaki told journalists on Monday: “For anyone to come forward and speak about their own struggles with mental health and tell their own personal story, that takes courage.

“That’s certainly something the president believes.”

Meanwhile, Meghan’s estranged father, Thomas Markle, has spoken of his “great respect” for the royals, adding: “I don’t think the British royal family are racist at all.”

Mr Markle told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that “yes, a racist comment should be investigated” but said he hoped the comment on skin tone was “just a dumb question”.

He said: “It could just be that simple, it could be somebody asked a stupid question, rather than being a total racist.”

Winfrey asked Meghan of Archie’s lack of title: “Do you think it’s because of his race? I know that’s a loaded question.”

Meghan replied: “I can give you an honest answer. In those months when I was pregnant, all around this same time, so we (had) the conversation of he won’t be given security, he’s not going to be given a title.

“And also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”

The chat show host was told it had been raised by a member of the royal family with Harry, but the couple did not reveal who.

Royal biographer Andrew Morton said the fallout from the interview will “shudder down through the generations in the same way that Diana’s did”.

In her now infamous Panorama interview in 1995, Harry’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, called royal officials “the enemy” and questioned Charles’s suitability to be king.

Life behind palace doors has not been exposed to this degree since the days of the “War of the Waleses”, when the turmoil of Charles and Diana’s disintegrating marriage was laid bare in the 1990s.

The Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Duchess of Sussex and the Duke of Sussex arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk, in 2018
The Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Duchess of Sussex and the Duke of Sussex in 2018 (Joe Giddens/PA)

The interview was watched by more than 11 million people on ITV, according to the head of home news at the broadcaster.

Commenting on a tweet from Variety, Matt Williams wrote: “Over 11 million people watched the Oprah iv with Meghan and Harry on @ITV last night. There was a peak of over 12 million.”

It is a year on Tuesday since Meghan and Harry carried out their final official public engagement as senior working royals, attending the Commonwealth Day service in Westminster Abbey.

Other revelations included Harry’s admission that he has become estranged from his father, saying: “I feel really let down”, but added that he would make it one of his priorities “to try and heal that relationship”.

Meghan said the Duchess of Cambridge had made her cry ahead of her wedding – the opposite of reports circulating ahead of the Sussexes’ nuptials that Meghan left Kate in tears at Princess Charlotte’s bridesmaid dress fitting.

In a lighter moment, the couple, who announced in February that they are expecting their second child, said they are due to have a baby girl in the summer.

Commenting on her mental health crisis, when she felt she did not “want to be alive anymore”, the duchess said: “I went to the institution, and I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help. I said that I’ve never felt this way before, and I need to go somewhere.

“And I was told that I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t be good for the institution.”

Meghan described how nothing was done when she contacted other unnamed individuals and she “had to find a solution”.

When Winfrey suggested if the answer was “I don’t want to be alive anymore,” Meghan replied: “Well, I thought it would have solved everything for everyone, right?”

Harry was equally cutting about the financial support he received from his family, saying they “literally cut me off financially” in the first quarter of 2020, and he went for the Netflix and Spotify deals to pay for his security.

He said he had what Diana left him and “without that we would not have been able to do this”.

In the wake of the interview, a touching family photograph of the Sussexes and their young son Archie was released.

The black and white image taken and shared by photographer Misan Harriman captures a smiling, pregnant Meghan standing by a tree, cuddling her son, as Harry stands behind her, embracing his wife.