Between the lines

Royal racism row: what we learned from the Palace statement

Queen strikes ‘conciliatory’ tone - but leaves open questions over alleged racism

The royal mantra when it comes to dealing with scandal and salacious stories has long been “never explain, never complain”. But after allegations of racism within the family from two of their own, that approach always looked unlikely to stand.

After the Queen reportedly vetoed a statement aimed at diffusing tensions with the Sussexes on Monday, the Royal Family last night released its first comments on the claims laid out in Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Here’s a look between the lines of the Royal rebuttal.

1

‘The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan.’

“It was never absolutely certain that the Queen would issue a statement”, the BBC says. But in “four short sentences” she has made it clear that any allegations against the family “will not be publicly addressed”, the broadcaster adds.

A royal insider told the Daily Mail that there will be no “tit for tat” rebuttal of the claims. However, “the use of their first names” in the Palace’s statement is “significant given how much debate there has been about stripping the couple of their titles”, the person close to the royals adds.

A survey of more than 1,000 adults conducted by pollsters JL Partners found that 62% of respondents aged 45 and over back stripping the couple’s royal title, the paper reports. Among 18- to 44-year-olds, 38% believe they should “forgo being royal”. 

However, 49% of people across all ages said the Royal Family came out of the interview looking worse, compared to 32% who said it had damaged the Sussexes more.

2

‘The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning.’

The Queen addressing the racism allegation is “a remarkable admission”, The Washington Post says, adding that the Queen is not “blowing this off”. The Daily Mail agrees, saying the decision to directly refer to the claim suggests that the family “clearly believes it is crucial to tackle such a toxic issue head on”.

However, the 61-word statement did not contain “any condemnation of specific events alleged to be racist”, The Guardian says. It is also unclear whether the Queen is referring to alleged remarks over Archie’s skin colour raised in the interview, suggestions by the couple that protocol was changed to deny Archie a royal title, or both.

3

‘While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.’

As royal pronouncements go, this particular line is a “bold assertion”, The Times says. But the phrase “some recollections may vary”, signals that Buckingham Palace “does not accept the truth of everything the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said”.

The Daily Mail calls the phrase “a masterpiece of polite rejection and diplomatic embrace” while Politico’s Alex Wickham describes it as “immediately iconic”.

This is “either a polite way of calling Meghan and Harry massive liars, or the non-denial denial to end all non-denial denials”, he adds. What the line also suggests is that the alleged “racist royal” has been “privately identified”.

The suggestion that the matters the couple raised will be addressed “privately” could be seen as an oblique barb directed at the royal couple, The Telegraph says, noting that by granting Winfrey an interview the pair have rejected the “never complain, never explain mantra” and have instead resorted to “airing their dirty linen in public”.

The Guardian disagrees, suggesting that while the statement indicates the family may have “different truths”, there was “no hint of criticism of the royal couple in it”.

4

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members.’

BBC royal correspondent Sarah Campbell says the final line is “conciliatory” in tone, with The Telegraph’s associate editor Camilla Tominey suggesting that the Queen was “evoking the spirit” of her message to the public following the death of Princess Diana.

“The Queen has always hated family conflict of any kind – and the words genuinely reflect the feeling of sadness among the royal family that it has come to this,” Tominey adds.

But the statement is “unlikely to be the end of the matter”, The Guardian says. The couple’s remarks, particularly those on race and mental health, will have caused “long-term damage to the monarchy”.

Following the “most incendiary royal interview ever given”, it remains to be seen whether “three paragraphs” will be able to “extinguish the flames”, Tominey continues.

“The royals’ greatest fear, of course, is that the public will be left thinking there is no smoke without fire.”

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