The Duchess of Sussex felt Princess Michael of Kent’s controversial ‘blackamoor’ brooch ‘sent a message’ after the royal wore the jewel to the Queen’s Christmas lunch, according to new biography Finding Freedom.
Princess Michael of Kent, 75, came under fire when she wore the accessory to the Queen’s event at Buckingham Palace in 2017, which was the first attended by Meghan Markle, 39. Some commentators claimed the piece was ‘racist’.
The book, out today and co-authored by journalists Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, claims that ‘in the back of Meghan’s mind, she wondered if there wasn’t a message being sent in the pin of the torso of an African man wearing a gold turban and ornate clothing.’
Princess Michael publicly apologised at the time and the palace released a statement saying she ‘is very sorry and distressed that it has caused offence’.
Finding Freedom provides an intimately detailed and personalised version of the events leading up to the Sussexes’ dramatic departure from royal life, with co-authors Scobie and Durand insisting ‘all information in this book has at least two sources’.
Princess Michael, who is married to the Queen’s cousin, Prince Michael, could clearly be seen wearing the jewellery on her coat as she drove through the gates days before Christmas.
She was not sat at the same table as Meghan but would have been introduced to her at the intimate, private gathering.
Blackamoor are a genre of figurines, small sculptures or jewellery which depict largely men, but sometimes women, with black skin usually from the 18th century.
Many will be worth £10,000 or more.
The princess lives in an apartment at Kensington Palace, just a stone’s throw from Harry and Meghan’s cottage in the grounds.
At the time, Princess Michael was roundly condemned on social media with comments ranging from: ‘Has no-one noticed the blackamoor pin that Princess Michael of Kent is wearing.? Really? Meghan Markle official meets the family and is greeted by THIS?’
Another attacked her for her ‘racist jewellery’, while a third added: ‘I hope the Queen is going to ban this horrible woman from any further gatherings. This woman is an embarrassment to the Royal Family.
According to the book, the choice to wear the the brooch to the event was ‘at the bare minimum’ an ‘insensitivity to Meghan’s African American Roots and the racism she had encountered since pairing up with Harry.’
The authors write: ‘When it comes to royal fashion, much thought goes into every detail.
‘Princess Michael’s choice of brooch could have simple been a mistake, but in the back of Meghan’s mind, she wondered if there wasn’t a message being sent in the pin of the torso of an African man wearing a gold turban and ornate clothing.’
A spokesperson for Princess Michael said at the time that she was ‘very sorry and distressed’ for wearing the brooch, adding it was a gift she’s worn many times before, without controversy.
The full statement said: ‘The brooch was a gift and has been worn many times before.
‘Princess Michael is very sorry and distressed that it has caused offence.’
However, the authors of Finding Freedom write that Meghan felt ‘the damage was done.’
They write: ‘Regardless, the damage had been done, particularly since the Queen’s purpose had been to make Meghan, who had just moved to England, feel at home for the holidays.’
It was not the first time that the royal, dubbed Princess Pushy, has found herself at the centre of a racist row.
In 2004 she was accused of insulting a party of black diners at a smart New York restaurant by allegedly telling them to ‘go back to the colonies’ in a row over noise.
The princess strongly denied the allegations, claiming to have said she would be ‘ready to go back to the colonies’ during a dispute about noise with the other table.
But she subsequently went on to make a series of toe-curling remarks in a television interview about the incident, referring to African people as ‘adorable’.
Talking of her extensive travels through Africa she said: ‘I even pretended years ago to be an African, a half-caste African, but because of my light eyes I did not get away with it, but I dyed my hair black.
‘I travelled on African buses. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted experiences from Cape Town to right up in northern Mozambique. I had this adventure with these absolutely adorable, special people and to call me racist: it’s a knife through the heart because I really love these people.’
In an interview on Good Morning America yesterday, Omid , one of the co-authors Finding Freedom, said Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to quit the royal family was prompted by racial ‘ignorance’ within the monarchy.
He opened up about the couple’s move to the US, explaining that there was no sole reason for the decision – but that racism definitely ‘played a role’.
‘In terms of ticking those boxes that may ruffle feathers within an ancient institution such as that of the monarchy, she had really ticked all of them,’ he said, adding: ‘Race did play a role.’
Omid suggests that Meghan never felt comfortable within the royal family – and that she was never made to feel as though she was entirely welcome.
The author went on to detail his own experiences with racial prejudice as a bi-racial man working closely with the monarchy in his role as a royal correspondent, recalling one particularly unpleasant interaction with a senior aide to the Queen.
‘I myself have also had moments as a bi-racial royal correspondent within the institution,’ he said.
‘I’ll never forget the moment an aide, or a senior aide close to the Queen, said to me, “I never would have expected you to speak like that,” and that level of ignorance I think perhaps made it very difficult for Meghan.’
Scobie’s remarks come just as Prince Harry addressed the desperate need for more diversity and inclusivity, insisting that it will take ‘every single person on the planet’ to defeat racism in a candid new virtual interview for a civil rights organisation.
Harry, 35, who is currently living in Tyler Perry’s $14 million mansion in Beverly Hills with Meghan and their son Archieis set to speak about the topic in further detail in a new interview for the Color of Change initiative – however in a short clip released on Instagram, he praised the younger generation for ‘acting, rather than just saying’.
Speaking with US civil rights leader Rashad Robinson, the royal said: ‘As we’ve discussed before, it is going to take every single one of us, this is not just down to the black community, it’s going to take every single person on the planet right now.’
Harry’s decision to speak so publicly about the battle against racism is all part of what Scobie recently described as his ‘journey to wokeness’, which, the author says, was guided by Meghan.
In a recent interview with the National Public Radio, Scobie noted that watching Meghan face racial bias was the first time that Harry had witnessed that kind of prejudice towards someone so close to him first-hand, explaining that this sparked the royal’s ‘journey to wokeness’.
‘Harry’s journey to wokeness has been very public,’ he said.
‘We’ve seen him learning and educating himself along the way, but this experience of witnessing Meghan face racist remarks and commentary would have been the first time he’d seen someone in his life or someone he was particularly close to affected by it in a certain way.
‘We talk about some of the more obvious examples in some of the media coverage but I think that the things that have flown under the radar are some of the othering of Meghan we’ve seen.
‘We’ve sort of seen it repeatedly that she’s not one of us. And now, what do they mean by not one of us?
‘And I think there are things like that which Harry’s really had to become more attuned to and learn to see when it happens in front of him. And Meghan would have been the person that guided him on that journey. ‘