UK’s Johnson steers clear of royal racism row after Meghan interview

March 9, 2021 - 10:45 AM
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves after a virtual news conference at 10 Downing Street, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, Britain, March 8, 2021. (Reuters/Hannah Mckay/Pool)

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson avoided wading into the clash of British royals on Monday, praising the queen but sidestepping questions about racism and insensitivity at the palace after an interview by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan.

The former Hollywood actress, whose mother is Black and father is white, accused the royal family of pushing her to the brink of suicide. In a tell-all television interview, she said someone in the royal household had raised questions about the color of her son’s skin.

READ: Meghan says British royals worried about her son’s dark skin

Prime ministers rarely comment on royal matters. But journalists repeatedly asked Johnson about it on Monday.

“I’ve always had the highest admiration for the queen and the unifying role that she plays in our country and across the Commonwealth,” he said.

“As for the rest, all other matters to do with the royal family: I’ve spent a long time now not commenting on royal family matters and I don’t intend to depart from that today.”

Harry and Meghan left Britain last year and have given up their royal duties to forge a new life in Los Angeles, earning media production deals. The interview with Oprah Winfrey was aired late on Sunday in the United States and was to be broadcast on Monday evening in Britain.

READ: Timeline: Prince Harry and Meghan – and ‘Megxit’

Meghan, 39, said her son Archie, now aged one, had been denied the title of prince because there were concerns within the royal family “about how dark his skin might be when he’s born”. She and Harry both declined to say who had raised the subject. Winfrey later told CBS that Harry had said it was not Queen Elizabeth or her husband Philip.

Buckingham Palace has declined to comment.

The two-hour broadcast was the most anticipated royal interview since Harry’s late mother Princess Diana shared intimate details of her failed marriage to Prince Charles in 1995, denting the reputation of the heir.

On Monday a YouGov poll, based on snippets of the interview and the media coverage, said 47% of people in Britain thought it was inappropriate that the couple had given the interview. A third had sympathy for them, but a third had none.

Harry also used the interview to attack the press, parts of which he has despised since his mother was killed in a 1997 crash as her car sped away from chasing photographers. Britain’s Society of Editors said it was not bigoted and would continue to hold the “rich and powerful” to account.—Reporting by Kate Holton and Alistair Smout; Additional reporting by Paul Sandle Writing by Elizabeth Piper and Kate Holton Editing by Peter Graff

RELATED: Meghan accuses UK royals of racism, says ‘didn’t want to be alive’