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British royals fail to dampen racism concerns

China Daily | Updated: 2021-03-12 10:27
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A statement by Buckingham Palace, issued on behalf of Queen Elizabeth in the wake of a television interview by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, is seen after its release in London, Britain on March 9, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

LONDON-Buckingham Palace's response to Prince Harry and his wife Meghan's allegations of racism and mistreatment has failed to quiet the controversy, with some observers criticizing the royal family for not forcefully condemning racism.

"Too little, too late" was the verdict of royal commentator Peter Hunt, who also criticized the palace's 61-word statement for saying the issue would be dealt with privately as a family matter.

"This delayed, tame statement went for predictability when unpredictability-stepping out of the Windsor comfort zone-was what was needed," Hunt wrote on the website of the influential British magazine The Spectator.

The statement, issued on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II, was released 36 hours after the interview of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex by Oprah Winfrey was broadcast in the United States. The interview has been seen by 50 million viewers worldwide.

"The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan," the palace said."The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately."

The comments were the palace's first word since the interview rocked the royal family-and touched off conversations around the world about racism, mental health and even the relationship between Britain and its former colonies.

Those tensions only built as the public waited to see how the royal family would respond.

The statement should lower the temperature of the debate, but media interest in the story isn't going away and there will be pressure for the palace to publicly address Harry and Meghan's concerns, said Ed Owens, a historian.

"There are big questions here that need to be answered, and I think the press, both in the United Kingdom, Europe and in the US, are going to continue to ask questions about the family relationship that exists between Harry and Meghan and the Windsors in the UK," he said.

Divided opinions

The interview also has divided opinions. Many people have backed Meghan, saying the allegations demonstrate the need for change in an institution that hasn't kept pace with the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements. Others stand behind the royal family, criticizing the couple for making their damning allegations at a time when Harry's 99-year-old grandfather, Prince Philip, remains hospitalized in London after a heart procedure.

Anna Whitelock, director of the Centre for the Study of Modern Monarchy at Royal Holloway, University of London, said fallout from the interview is likely to fuel the debate over the future of the monarchy and its role both in Britain and the other countries for which the queen serves as head of state, Whitelock said. Besides the UK, the queen remains the head of state for 15 countries, most of which were once part of the British Empire, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and some island nations in the Caribbean.

"That's a debate that's been held in check, in large part, given the length of the queen's reign and in respect to her and the role that she's played," Whitelock said. "But it's going to happen, and it's just a question of when, not if."

Agencies via Xinhua

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