Buckingham Palace was today under intense pressure to respond to the claims of racism and neglect made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their conversation with Oprah Winfrey.
The most damaging accusation concerned how a member of the royal family — known not to be the Queen or Prince Philip — allegedly made a racist comment about the skin colour of the couple’s unborn son Archie.
Sources told the Standard: “It goes against everything the Prince of Wales believes in. He believes diversity is the strength of our society.”
The Queen was today expected to issue a response to the accusations as attention turned to the identity of the alleged racist who Meghan said expressed concerns “about how dark his [Archie’s] skin might be”.
The silence from the palace came as Charles, who Harry claimed was “trapped” in the royal family and had refused to take his phone calls at one stage, was carrying out engagements in London today.
They included a visit to an NHS vaccination centre but royal minders refused to allow the media to ask him questions. Senior sources told the Standard that Charles, 72, was particularly concerned at the claims of racism being levelled at his family by his own son and daughter-in-law.
The heir to the throne and head of his own charitable trust has frequently praised the huge contribution made by black and ethnic minority communities to modern Britain.
One senior Household figure said: “Yes, you could say the boss feels let down by what the Sussexes have said. The prince is proud of the diversity of this country and believes the diversity of Britain’s modern society is its greatest strength.
“He wholeheartedly believes that our country owes a huge debt of gratitude to the rich diversity of cultures that make up our society and going forward is at the heart of what we can be as a nation He truly believes the diversity of our society gives us so much to celebrate.”
The Household comments were the first insight into the tumult inside the royal establishment caused by the interview, first broadcast in the United States on Sunday night. Royal advisers have told the Queen she must agree to investigate the claims of racism. Until now she has decided to keep her counsel but was considering releasing a statement later today.
The problem, insiders say, was that the Palace did not want to go on the record and deny that there was institutional racism until it had all the facts.
“A denial could lead the Sussexes breaking their vow and naming the member of the royal family who discussed their son’s skin colour. There is a lack of trust,” an insider said.
The senior source said the Palace cannot deny these unsubstantiated claims until it knew what was said and in what context. “It could lead to the Sussexes naming names and it blowing up again.” In the interview, Harry also said that his family had “cut him off financially” when the couple decided to step back from frontline royal duties and leave Britain in January last year.
But the senior figure told the Standard that Charles “supported the duke and duchess more than he would care to say. “The feeling is it will be better to try to build bridges with the couple and to embrace them.
“However, this incendiary interview has caused pain and division. Trust is an issue,” the source added. “For Harry to say he feels ‘let down’ seems a little rich when you consider what he has done. The Duke of Sussex continues to say he respects his grandmother, but he has ridden roughshod over the institution she represents. Time is said to be a great healer, let’s hope so.”
The official statement was expected to be issued following a series of emergency online meetings between the Queen, Charles and Prince William.
The Queen reportedly refused to sign off the statement that was expected to be issued by her Communications Secretary last night ahead of Harry and Meghan’s interview being aired in the UK on ITV.
One senior source told the Evening Standard: “The Queen wanted more time to consider the statement before it was released.”
The Queen is understood to be particularly concerned that the extraordinary claims made in the interview — including Meghan’s insistence that her plea for support over her deteriorating mental health were ignored — were gaining global political traction.
US President Joe Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki praised Meghan’s “courage” in speaking publicly about her struggles when felt she “didn’t want to be alive anymore”.
However, Boris Johnson has refused to comment on the furore other than to say that he has the “highest admiration for the Queen”.
It comes as the Duke of Edinburgh approaches the end of a third week in hospital where he is recuperating from an infection and heart operation. It is known he wants to return to support the Queen at Windsor as soon as possible.
Charles, who has visited his father at the King Edward VII Hospital, is said to be concerned for his father “more than anything.”
William, whose relationship with his brother is also strained, is said to be particularly upset about Meghan’s comments about his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge. Meghan, 39, accused Kate of making her cry in the run up to her wedding to Harry in May 2018.