Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, recently made headlines by attending Black History Month celebrations for the first time. Their participation in these events, which commemorate both Black History Month and the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the ship HMT Empire Windrush, has sparked discussions about their motivations and the timing of their involvement.
This move comes six years after Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, became engaged to Prince Harry, and several years after racial issues within the royal family came to the forefront.
In 2016, shortly after the public revelation of Prince Harry’s relationship with Meghan Markle, he released a statement through his press secretary addressing the “racial undertones of comment pieces and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls.” This marked the beginning of heightened public awareness of racism within the royal sphere.
By 2021, Meghan Markle had openly discussed the challenges she faced within the royal family, including allegations of an unnamed royal expressing “concern” about the potential skin color of her child. However, Prince Harry later suggested that this concern might have been rooted in unconscious bias rather than explicit racism.
According to reports by Vanity Fair on Thursday, October 4, 2023, Despite these previous racial controversies, Prince William and Kate Middleton have now become the first senior members of the royal family to attend a Black History Month event since its inception in 1987. This decision has raised questions about their timing and motivations.
Afua Hagan, a prominent commentator on diversity in Britain, expressed reservations about the couple’s motivations, given their past inaction in marking Black History Month. She questioned why they had chosen to do so only now and described it as “a bit too late.”
Hagan highlighted the theme of this year’s Black History Month, which focuses on celebrating and uplifting black women, emphasizing that they had a black woman, Meghan Markle, within their family during her time as a royal, yet they did not take this opportunity to mark the occasion.
The couple’s visit was intended to commemorate both Black History Month and the Windrush anniversary, honoring the arrival of Caribbean migrants in Britain in 1948, who played a vital role in post-World War II reconstruction but also faced racism in the UK.
During their visit to Cardiff, Wales, Prince William and Kate engaged enthusiastically with school children, members of the Windrush Generation, and young people from the Ethnic Minority Youth Forum. They even joined in a table tennis game at the Grange Pavilion.
Hagan acknowledged the positive aspect of the couple’s participation in these events, as they have a broad appeal, especially to a younger generation.
However, she maintained her skepticism about the timing, especially in light of a recent scandal involving Queen Elizabeth II’s former lady-in-waiting, Susan Hussey, who stepped down after repeatedly asking a black charity boss about her origins.
Hagan questioned whether the royal family’s newfound involvement in Black History Month was an attempt to counter accusations of racism following Prince Harry and Meghan’s Oprah Winfrey interview in March 2021 when Prince William asserted, “We’re very much not a racist family.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s participation in Black History Month events also marks a historic moment, as they are the first future king and queen to engage in such commemorations.
It is a significant step for the royal family in acknowledging and participating in events that celebrate and recognize the contributions and experiences of black communities in the UK.
In the backdrop of these developments, King Charles III faced growing pressure from Caribbean nations to issue an apology for slavery and engage in meaningful discussions about reparations. Jamaica, in particular, has publicly disclosed its plans to petition the king for reparations directly, bypassing the British government.
The royal family is grappling with multifaceted challenges concerning questions of reparations, slavery, and the origins of certain royal possessions, adding complexity to their relationship with countries within the Commonwealth.
Prince William and Kate Middleton’s participation in Black History Month events, while commendable, has raised questions about their motivations and the timing of their involvement. The historical significance of their participation cannot be denied, but it also underscores the ongoing discussion around racial issues within the royal family and the broader context of reparations and reconciliation with former British colonies.