Racist Royals? Buckingham Palace bans ethnic minorities from holding administrative positions
Queen Elizabeth’s courtiers banned “immigrants of color or foreigners” from holding office positions in the British royal household until at least the late 1960s, according to recently uncovered documents that will reignite debate on the issue. royal family and race.
The documents also shed light on how Buckingham Palace negotiated controversial clauses – still in place – exempting the Queen and her family from laws that prevent racial and gender discrimination.
The documents were discovered at the National Archives of the United Kingdom as part of the Guardian Journal’s ongoing investigation into the Royal Family’s use of an obscure parliamentary procedure, known as the Queen’s Consent, to secretly influence the content of UK laws.
In 1968, the monarch’s chief financial director told officials “it was not, in fact, customary to appoint immigrants of color or foreigners” to office positions, although they were allowed to work as domestic servants.
They reveal how, in 1968, the monarch’s financial director informed officials that “in fact, it was not customary to appoint immigrants of color or foreigners” to office positions in the royal household, although they are allowed to work as domestic servants. .
It is not known when the practice ended. Buckingham Palace declined to answer questions about the ban and its revocation. He said his records showed people from ethnic minorities were employed in the 1990s. He added that he had not kept records on the racial origins of employees before that date.
UK law exemptions
In the 1960s, British government ministers sought to introduce laws that would make it illegal to refuse to employ someone because of their race or ethnicity.
Queen Elizabeth has remained personally exempt from these equality laws for more than four decades. The exemption has made it impossible for women or persons belonging to ethnic minorities working for their household to bring complaints to the courts if they believe they have been discriminated against.
In a statement, Buckingham Palace did not dispute that the Queen had been exempted from the laws, adding that she had a separate process for hearing complaints related to discrimination. The palace did not respond when asked what this process consisted of.
The exemption from the law came into effect in the 1970s, when politicians implemented a series of racial and gender equality laws to stamp out discrimination.
Official documents reveal how government officials in the 1970s coordinated with Elizabeth Windsor’s advisers on the wording of laws.
The documents are likely to refocus attention on the royal family’s historical and current relationship with the race.
Much of the family’s history is inextricably linked with the British Empire, which subjugated people around the world. Some members of the royal family have also been criticized for their racist remarks.
In March, the Duchess of Sussex, the first Métis member of the family, said she had suicidal thoughts during her time with the royal family and alleged that a family member had expressed concern about her . child skin color.
The allegation forced his brother-in-law Prince William to say that the royal family was “not really” racist.
Some of the documents uncovered by the Guardian relate to the use of the Queen’s Consent, an obscure parliamentary mechanism by which the monarch authorizes parliament to debate laws that affect her as well as her private interests.
Buckingham Palace says the process is just a formality, despite convincing evidence the Queen has repeatedly used the power to secretly pressure ministers to change legislation she doesn’t like.
The recently uncovered documents reveal how the Queen’s consent procedure was used to covertly influence the formation of the UK Race Relations Bill.
In 1968, then Home Secretary James Callaghan and Home Office officials seemed to have believed they should not seek the Queen’s consent for Parliament to debate the bill. on race relations until her advisers were convinced he could not be enforced against her. in the courts.
At the time, Callaghan wanted to expand Britain’s racial discrimination laws, which only prohibited discrimination in public places, to also prevent racism in employment or services such as housing.
A key proposal in the bill was a race relations council, which would act as an ombudsman for discrimination complaints and could take legal action against individuals or businesses that maintain racist practices.
“Not the practice of naming immigrants of color”
In February 1968, a home office official, TG Weiler, summarized the status of discussions with Lord Tryon, the keeper of the private stock exchange – who was responsible for managing the Queen’s finances – and others. courtiers.
Tryon, he wrote, had informed them that Buckingham Palace was prepared to comply with the proposed law, but only if it enjoyed exemptions similar to those granted to the diplomatic service, which could reject job applicants who had resided in the UK for less than five years. years.
According to Weiler, Tryon considered the staff of the Queen’s household to fall into one of three types of roles: “(a) senior positions, which were not filled by publicity or an overt appointment system, and that would likely be accepted as outside the scope of the bill; (b) clerical and other positions to which it was not in fact customary to appoint immigrants of color or foreigners; and (c) ordinary domestic positions for which candidates of color were freely considered, but which would in any event be covered by the proposed general exemption for domestic employment.
“They were particularly concerned,” Weiler wrote, “that if the proposed legislation applied to the Queen’s house, it would for the first time make it legally possible to criticize the house. Many people are already doing this, but it must be accepted and is on a different footing from a legal provision. “
In March, Buckingham Palace was happy with the proposed law. An Home Office official noted that courtiers “agreed the way was now open for the Secretary of State to seek the Queen’s consent to make her interests available to Parliament for the purposes of the bill. “.
The wording of the documents is very significant, as it suggests that Callaghan and Home Office officials believed that it might not be possible to get the Queen’s consent for Parliament to debate the law on racial equality unless the monarch is assured of his exemption.
As a result of this exemption, the Race Relations Board responsible for investigating racial discrimination would refer any complaints from the Queen’s staff to the Home Secretary rather than the courts.
In the 1970s, the UK government passed three laws to tackle racial and gender discrimination in the workplace. Complainants in general were empowered to take their cases directly to the courts.
But Royal Household staff were specifically prevented from doing so, though the wording of the ban was vague enough that the public may not have realized that the monarch’s staff had been exempted.
One official noted that the exemption from the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act was “acceptable to the palace, in large part because it did not explicitly single out persons employed by Her Majesty in a personal capacity for a special exception. While removing them from its scope. .
The exemption was extended to the present day when in 2010 the Equality Act replaced the 1976 Race Relations Act, the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act and the 1970 Equality Act. of remuneration. For many years, critics repeatedly pointed out that the royal household employed few blacks, Asians or ethnic minorities.
In 1990, journalist Andrew Morton reported in The Sunday Times that “a black face has never graced the executive echelons of royal service – home and officials” and “even among clerical and domestic staff he did ‘there are only a handful of recruits from ethnic minorities ”.
The following year, royal researcher Philip Hall published a book, Royal Fortune, in which he cited a source close to Queen Elizabeth confirming that there were no non-white courtiers in the highest ranks of the palace.
In 1997, the palace admitted to the London Independent newspaper that it was not implementing an officially recommended policy of workforce controls to ensure equal opportunities.
A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace said: “The Royal Household and the Sovereign comply with the provisions of the Equality Act in principle and in practice. This is reflected in the policies, procedures and practices of diversity, inclusion and dignity in the workplace within the Royal Household.
“Any complaint that might be raised under the law follows a formal process that provides a means to hear and resolve any complaints. The palace did not respond when asked if the monarch was subject to this law. – Guardian