Prince William defended Britain’s monarchy Thursday against accusations of bigotry made by his brother, Prince Harry, and sister-in-law, Meghan, insisting the family is not racist.
In comments made during a visit to an east London school, William became the first royal to directly address the explosive interview broadcast Sunday in the U.S. that Harry and Meghan gave to Oprah Winfrey.
“We’re very much not a racist family,” he said as his wife, Kate, walked by his side.
Harry and Meghan’s allegations of racism and mistreatment have rocked the Royal Family, and Buckingham Palace sought to respond to them in a 61-word statement Tuesday, but it has failed to quell the controversy.
William, second in line to the throne after his father, Prince Charles, says he hadn’t yet spoken to Harry in the aftermath of the interview, “but I will do.”
Racism, mental health discussions
Meghan, who is biracial, said in the interview she was so isolated and miserable as a working member of the Royal Family that she had suicidal thoughts. She also said Harry told her there were “concerns and conversations” by a Royal Family member about the colour of her baby’s skin when she was pregnant with their son, Archie.
Their comments have touched off conversations around the world about racism, mental health and even the relationship between Britain and its former colonies.
William and Kate toured School21 in Stratford, east London as children returned to classes. The visit was also meant to mark the rollout to secondary schools of a mental health project Kate launched in primary schools in 2018.
WATCH | Prince William addresses Meghan, Harry’s interview:
Prince William responded to allegations of racism in the Royal Family by saying the family isn’t racist and he hasn’t spoken to his brother, Prince Harry, since the bombshell interview with Oprah aired. 2:02
U.S. Attorney General William Barr, one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest allies, is resigning amid lingering tension over the president’s baseless claims of election fraud and the investigation into president-elect Joe Biden’s son.
Barr went to the White House on Monday, where Trump said he submitted his letter of resignation. “As per letter, Bill will be leaving just before Christmas to spend the holidays with his family,” Trump tweeted.
Trump has publicly expressed his anger about Barr’s statement to The Associated Press earlier this month that the Justice Department had found no widespread election fraud that would change the outcome of the election.
Trump has also been angry that the Justice Department did not publicly announce it was investigating Hunter Biden ahead of the election, despite department policy against such a pronouncement.
Trump said deputy attorney general Jeff Rosen, whom he labelled “an outstanding person,” will become acting attorney general.
Barr in his resignation letter said he updated Trump Monday on the department’s “review of voter fraud allegations in the 2020 election and how these allegations will continue to be pursued.” He added that his last day on the job would be Dec. 23.
Trump spent much of the day watching the electoral college tally and calling allies but broke away to meet with Barr. His tweet about Barr’s exit was an unusually heartfelt response from a president who is notoriously cold to his departing staff and quick to name-call and deride them once they say they are leaving. The president has previously claimed he fired staffers who resigned to make himself appear more powerful.
Despite Trump’s obvious disdain for those who publicly disagree with him, Barr had generally remained in the president’s good graces and has been one of the president’s most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls.
But Trump has a low tolerance for criticism, especially public criticism, from his allies and often fires back in kind.
Barr, who was serving in his second stint as attorney general, sought to paint himself as an independent leader who would not bow to political pressure. But Democrats have repeatedly accused Barr of acting more like the president’s personal attorney than the attorney general, and Barr had proved to be a largely reliable Trump ally and defender of presidential power.
‘Investigate the investigators’
Before releasing special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report on the Russia investigation last year, Barr framed the results in a manner favourable to Trump even though Mueller pointedly said he couldn’t exonerate the president of obstruction of justice.
He also appointed as special counsel the U.S. attorney who is conducting a criminal investigation into the origins of the FBI’s probe of the 2016 election that morphed into Mueller’s investigation of possible Trump-Russia cooperation, following Trump’s repeated calls to “investigate the investigators.”
Barr also ordered Justice Department prosecutors to review the handling of the federal investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn and then sought to dismiss the criminal charges against Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Trump later pardoned Flynn.
Barr’s break from Trump over election fraud wasn’t the first. Earlier this year, Barr told ABC News that the president’s tweets about Justice Department cases “make it impossible for me to do my job” and tensions flared just a few months ago when the two were increasingly at odds over the pace of the Durham investigation.
Trump had been increasingly critical about a lack of arrests and Barr was privately telling people he was frustrated by Trump’s public pronouncements about the case.
Trump was also said to blame Barr for comments from FBI Director Chris Wray on election fraud and mail-in voting that didn’t jibe with the president’s alarmist rhetoric.
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A few years ago, there were mutterings about whether a “work-shy” Prince William was as interested as he might be in the role he had as No. 2 in line to the throne.
In an interview at the time of his grandmother Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday in 2016, William responded that he takes duty very seriously.
Since then, however, and particularly during the pandemic, there has been a sense things are changing for him.
“I think William has grown in stature in the last couple of years and really come into his own,” royal biographer Penny Junor, author of Prince William: The Man Who Will Be King, said in an interview.
“And during lockdown, he showed great leadership.”
Junor points to “broadcasting in the way he did” as William took part in numerous video and social media endeavours to give support in the fight against COVID-19, along with how he was “reaching out to people and offering reassurance and comfort at a time when we were losing faith in our politicians.”
All that “was very valuable,” Junor said via email, “and a useful demonstration of what monarchy is for.”
Some observers see change in William as a response to changes around him. He has become a father, and his younger brother, Harry — with whom he was very close as they grew up in the shadow of the death of their mother — has stepped back from the upper echelons of the Royal Family and lives with his wife, Meghan, in California.
“William has always had this ability to connect with people,” Seward said. “He’s very natural and not at all fake. He’s always had it but I think perhaps he was overshadowed by Harry. Now he’s no longer on the scene, we are reminded that William has the same qualities in spades.”
Junor said she thinks the problem was that the two princes were treading on each other’s toes.
“Harry was second in the pecking order and probably found that difficult at times, and William was possibly frustrated at times by the media attention Harry and Meghan were attracting,” she said.
“Harry and Meghan’s departure has inevitably made more work for [William and his wife, Kate] but the waters are no longer muddied.”
In ways, William’s coming into his own has been a steady evolution over the past few years. A solo trip to the Middle East in 2018, along with a trip with Kate to Pakistan last year, burnished his international profile. And he’s now focusing efforts on environmental issues, following in the footsteps of his father, Prince Charles.
Still, questions returned this week as word emerged that William had COVID-19 in the spring, around the same time Charles let everyone know he had had — and subsequently recovered from — the disease. Why, some observers wondered, was William’s illness not revealed to the public at the time?
“Not making the news public certainly was a break with precedent, but I think it is in character with what we know about William,” said Junor.
“He is fiercely private and feels strongly that there should be boundaries between the public and private sides of his life — which his parents never achieved. I can see he might feel that his health is strictly private — and since he is not yet monarch and not yet even next in line, I think that’s arguably reasonable.”
Looking into links to the slave trade
A new curator being hired by the organization that manages historic royal properties, including Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace, will look into their connections to the slave trade.
Historic Royal Palaces did not respond to a request for comment, but a spokesperson told the Guardian newspaper: “We cannot ignore the fact that for hundreds of years colonialism and empire, enslavement and exploitation were part of our national story.
“As seats of power, the palaces in our care are connected to that history. We expect the research will address this in more depth.”
Lucy Worsley, head curator of Historic Royal Palaces, told the Times newspaper that any properties used by the Stuarts are “going to have an element of money derived from slavery.”
The Stuart period lasted from 1603 to 1714. During that time, monarchs included William III, who reigned jointly with his wife, Mary. They transformed the former Nottingham House into Kensington Palace, where Prince William, Kate and their three children now live in London.
Also during the Stuart period, the Royal African Company had a lucrative monopoly trade that included slaves, sending them to the Americas. King James II, when he was Duke of York, ran the original company. William III was a part-owner of the company after slave trader Edward Colston transferred shares in it to him when he ascended the throne in 1689.
This involvement isn’t necessarily widely known today.
“When you think about the whole issue of the slave trade and the connection with the monarchy, if you go online, you’re not going to find a book which specifically deals with this,” said Paulina Kewes, an English professor at Oxford University who teaches the Stuart period. “There isn’t a book called TheBritish Monarchy and the Slave Trade or Stuarts and the Slave Trade.”
Kewes sees a need in Britain for “wider dissemination of some facts which may not be comfortable but which need to be in the public domain.”
Kewes isn’t suggesting that British scholars have not investigated the slave trade over the years. “It’s just that their work hasn’t been … translated into [a] sort of culture study of the implications, [the] wider conceptual, ideological implications of the slave trade over the ages.”
And that, she said, “needs to be communicated to the wider public in a sensitive, thoughtful way.”
In many ways, she said, “it’s very nice that Historic Royal Palaces will now have a curator for inclusive history. It’s just a shame that it’s so little so late.”
From her perspective, the best possible outcome of Historic Royal Palaces’s endeavour would be if “they didn’t try to go it alone.”
“I think that it is absolutely necessary that Historic Royal Palaces should work alongside galleries, the National Trust, the National Archives, museums of all kinds,” she said.
“[There] should be a proper network which specifically addresses the role of the slave trade in the history, [the] culture, of this country, its impact on art and architecture, on all sorts of things, and not reinvent the wheel.”
Remembering the fallen
As with pretty much everything else, the pandemic is prompting changes to the ways of honouring those who have fallen in war.
Members of the Royal Family took part in modified remembrance commemorations in London on Sunday. But even without the impact of the pandemic, there would likely have been two notable royal absences.
Those absences carry a certain degree of irony, given that they involve the two members of the Royal Family who have had high-profile service in the Armed Forces.
Prince Harry, living in the U.S. and having stepped back as a working member of the Royal Family, was not there. He spent a decade in the army and did two tours in Afghanistan. In a podcast Sunday, the BBC reported he said: “Being able to wear my uniform, being able to stand up in service of one’s country, these are amongst the greatest honours there are in life.”
Prince Andrew also was absent Sunday, having stepped back from royal duties amid the fallout from his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Royals made other appearances of remembrance earlier in the week, including Queen Elizabeth, who did a low-profile trip to Westminster Abbey in central London on Wednesday to mark the centenary of the burial of the unknown soldier.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, was also at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday for a remembrance service that had been attended by Prince Harry for the past few years.
Royals in Canada
Prince Charles and Camilla made their first trip to Canada as a couple in early November 2009.
The 11-day trip, which took them from coast to coast, began in St. John’s on Nov. 2 and included stops in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.
While there were warm welcomes in some places, crowds were sparse in others, and there were anxious moments in Montreal when riot police had to push back about 200 anti-monarchists before Charles and Camilla visited an armoury.
WATCH | Prince Charles and Camilla greet Canadians:
During a 2009 visit to Canada, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall made an effort to connect with Canadians. 3:13
In Vancouver, anticipation was high for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, with the couple touring the athletes’ village, meeting the mascots and getting their own pairs of the much-sought-after red mittens.
“I’m one of those people who hate throwing anything away. Hence, I’d rather have [clothes] maintained, even patched if necessary, than to abandon them.”
— Prince Charles talks about his approach to his wardrobe, and his commitment to sustainable fashion, in an interview with Edward Enninful, editor in chief of British Vogue.
Prince Harry is urging people to take an active role in fighting racism and says he “had no idea” unconscious biases existed when he was growing up. He credits Meghan with opening his eyes. [USA Today]
A judge has granted a request from Meghan for a nine-month postponement of the trial in her invasion of privacy lawsuit against the publisher of a British newspaper that published portions of a private letter she wrote to her father. [CBC]