LONDON — Prince William insisted that the royal family was not racist and acknowledged that he hadn’t spoken to his brother since the bombshell interview Meghan and Prince Harry did with Oprah Winfrey.
William’s remarks were the first comments from a member of the royal family following the short statement by Buckingham Palace, which said that Queen Elizabeth II was “saddened” by descriptions of Harry and Meghan’s time as senior members of the royal family.
On Thursday, William and his wife, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, were visiting a school in east London that had recently reopened following a national lockdown and was rolling out a mental health project that the duchess launched three years ago.
A reporter shouted out: “Sir, have you spoken to your brother since the interview?”
“I haven’t spoken to him yet, but I will do,” said William, who paused briefly to answer the question. In response to a follow-up on whether the royal family was racist, William said, “We’re very much not a racist family.”
The allegations of racism in the royal family have served as a reminder of the British monarchy’s colonial past and prompted renewed debates about abolishing the monarchy in former British colonies. The queen is the head of state of the U.K., a multicultural country, as well as the head of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of countries representing more than 2 billion people.
The only other response by the royal family came in the form of a 61-word statement by Buckingham Palace, in which the queen said that the “whole family was saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan.”
She said that “the issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning.”
The queen also said that “some recollections may vary” — indicating that there are differing accounts of what had been said — and that issues raised will be addressed by the family “privately.”
Some have compared that statement, which doesn’t condemn racism outright, to the statement the palace released the week before in response to allegations that Meghan had bullied members of her staff when she was a senior royal. In response to those claims, Buckingham Palace announced they were launching an investigation and said that the royal household “will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace.”
The Winfrey interview has rocked the royal family, which has been accused of racist remarks and of not helping a pregnant woman who was having suicidal thoughts.
In their interview with Winfrey, Meghan and Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, said a royal had expressed concern over the skin color of their son, Archie. They refused to say which member of the royal family made the remarks — that would be “very damaging to them,” Meghan said — but later made it clear that it wasn’t the queen or her husband, Prince Philip — Harry’s grandparents.
Harry was also asked about his relationship with his brother, which he described as one of “space.”
“I love William to bits. He’s my brother,” Harry said. “We’ve been through hell together. I mean, we have a shared experience. But, you know, we’re on different paths. The relationship is space, at the moment.”
He also told Winfrey that he had felt “trapped” when he was a working member of the royal family.
“My father and my brother, they are trapped,” he added. “They don’t get to leave. And I have huge compassion for that.”
The ongoing fallout from the interview has also prompted the resignation of talk show host Piers Morgan, one of Meghan’s harshest critics, earlier in the week after he said he “didn’t believe a word” that the duchess told Winfrey in her interview, specifically her assertion that she felt suicidal and was offered no help.
The interview has divided Britons, with one recent poll showing that the British public was more sympathetic to the queen and royal family than to Harry and Meghan. But there is a generational divide, with those under 25 feeling more sympathy for Harry and Meghan, and those over 50 feeling more sympathy for The Firm, as the family is often called.