The Duke of Cambridge has defended the monarchy against accusations of racism made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, saying: “We’re very much not a racist family.”
William made the comment during his first public appearance since highly damaging claims of bigotry and a lack of support were levelled at the royal family by Harry and Meghan, in their interview with US chat show host Oprah Winfrey.
William also said he has yet to speak to his brother Harry about their disclosures, which drew a global television audience of nearly 50 million, but said he will.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge toured School21 in Stratford, east London, to mark the return of children to classes this week and the rollout to secondary schools of a mental health project Kate launched in primary schools in 2018.
Journalists had been told by royal aides that the couple would not be answering questions, but at the end of the visit Sky News reporter Inzamam Rashid received a response from him.
The broadcaster asked whether there has been any communication between the brothers, whose relationship is known to have been troubled in the past.
“No, I haven’t spoken to him yet, but I will do,” William replied.
With his wife by his side the duke was asked: “Is the royal family a racist family, sir?”
The duke said: “We’re very much not a racist family.”
William’s comments are the first public statement by a member of the royal family about the allegations made by the Sussexes, which have severely damaged the reputation of the monarchy, especially in the Commonwealth.
The Queen is head of the Commonwealth, which has a combined population of around 2.4 billion people who are ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse.
Winfrey was left open-mouthed when Meghan and Harry recounted that a family member – not the Queen or Duke of Edinburgh – had raised concerns about how dark their unborn son Archie’s skin tone might be.
There has been much speculation about which member of the royal family they were accusing of racism.
But during the interview the couple would not be drawn on who had deeply offended them, and Winfrey later said Harry wanted it known it was not his grandparents.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said allegations of racism made by the Sussexes were a “matter now for the family”.
Asked at his local election campaign launch, he said: “The issues that Meghan raised of race and mental health are serious.
“The palace has now responded and I do think it is a matter now for the family and I do hope it is resolved as soon as possible.”
In its statement Buckingham Palace said the issues raised in Harry and Meghan’s bombshell interview, especially over race, were “concerning” and would be addressed by the Queen and her family privately.
The royals appear to be at odds over the version of some events described by the Sussexes, as the statement highlighted how “some recollections may vary”.
But the sympathetic tone of the Buckingham Palace statement suggests a reconciliation through dialogue in private is the aim.
During the school visit Kate, in a pink Max & Co coat, knelt down to talk to children in a pop-up cafe, while William helped a little girl building a wall in the playground’s construction area.
He joked that he had been taking orders from the young construction manager, saying to laughter from the teachers: “I was just doing what I was told.”
The duke and duchess then joined teachers and staff involved in the Mentally Healthy Schools project to talk about its aims and impact on children.
They sat in a circle outside the school because of Covid restrictions.
In the interview, Harry candidly said he did not speak to the royal family about his wife’s mental health problems, which saw her experience suicidal thoughts, because he was “ashamed of admitting it to them”.
He added: “I didn’t have anyone to turn to. You know, we’ve got some very close friends that have been with us through this whole process.
“But for the family, they very much have this mentality of, ‘This is just how it is. This is how it’s meant to be. You can’t change it. We’ve all been through it’.”
A spokesman for the Sussexes declined to comment.