Lady Hussey’s racist remarks will take an already bruised palace two steps back
The resignation of Lady Susan Hussey after making “unacceptable and deeply regrettable comments” to a black female guest at a Buckingham Palace reception will undoubtedly cast a gloomy shadow over the beginning of the king’s reign.
No matter that Lady Hussey, 83, who served six long loyal decades as lady-in-waiting to the late Queen – and who was nicknamed “No 1 Head Girl” by royal staff – is not a key aide in the king’s private office. She is a close friend of Charles, who made her a godmother to his eldest son, William.
Her new job title, announced only last week, was as one of three Ladies-of-the-Household, there to assist at palace functions and the like. Nevertheless, it is a public-facing, honorary role.
For a royal family still bruised by allegations aired on TV by the Duchess of Sussex regarding matters of race, which have been vehemently denied, any whiff of controversy on the subject will be greeted with abject horror.
More especially, this is already an acutely sensitive time for the House of Windsor. The long-awaited Netflix documentary on Harry and Meghan is, reportedly, finally due to air next week.
If the couple’s interview with US TV host Oprah Winfrey – in which they claimed an unnamed member of the royal family speculated on the skin tone of their first-born, Archie – is any yardstick, Buckingham Palace is right to be braced. And they remain so for the publication of Harry’s candid memoir, Spare, in the new year.
There will be huge disappointment at this latest controversy. The reception at which Ngozi Fulani, chief executive of the charity Sistah Space, was subjected to interrogation over where she was “really from” was a key event in the new Queen Consort’s diary. It had been billed as a “new high-water mark” in Camilla’s violence against women and girls (VAWG) work, and a platform from which she would deliver her first major speech in her new position.
Coverage of the event has been overtaken by headlines on the fallout from Hussey’s comments and her resignation.
The incident also threatens to overshadow the first day of the Prince and Princess of Wales’s visit to Boston to promote William’s Earthshot environment prize, due to culminate in an award ceremony and a possible meeting with the US president, Joe Biden.
It is just two weeks since the king welcomed the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, to Buckingham Palace with a state banquet during which he spoke of “acknowledging the wrongs” that shaped the pasts of the two nations.
South Africa is part of the Commonwealth, of which Charles is head. One can only imagine how many Commonwealth countries must view headlines such as that generated by what allegedly passes for small talk by a trusted aide at a palace reception.