This was never going to be the ideal week for Prince Charles to learn from a new book that he was accused of questioning the future skin color of Prince Harry and Meghan’s children.
He finally arrived in Barbados to represent the Queen in a momentous ceremony marking the Caribbean island’s transition to a republic and where issues of race and identity politics are at the center of attention.
Whether American author Christopher Andersen’s claim — done with his usual bold claims from impeccable sources — is true is another matter.
It garnered the immediate disdain of royal officials, and someone described it as “fiction.”
And it’s certainly helpful that the book, Brothers And Wives: Inside The Private Lives Of William, Kate, Harry And Meghan, is being published in the US, safely out of the reach of the Prince’s lawyers.
Andersen has a track record of writing royal books that rely on the most amazingly intimate—some would say controversial—information.
In a 2001 book called Diana’s Boys, he claimed that William and Harry had insisted on walking behind their mother’s coffin, when in fact they only agreed to do so the night before the funeral when their grandfather offered Prince Philip. to walk with them.
For Charles, the timing of this last part, however improbable its content, is unfortunate in two respects.
The charge comes as Prince Charles (pictured) engages in a diplomatically sensitive engagement in Barbados – the first country to oust the Queen as head of state since 1992
It’s bad enough to overlook such a grotesque accusation while he takes part in one of the most diplomatically sensitive missions – Barbados is the first country to depose the Queen as head of state since 1992 – is bad enough, but against the background to the controversial BBC documentary examining Harry and Meghan’s relationships with the media, it’s a mischievous distraction.
But the way the story has taken hold on social media hints at the potential harm such charges could do, even against that one figure who has done more than any other member of the royal family to promote racial tolerance.
The tragedy for Charles is that, as outrageous as the allegations are, the blame for all of this is much closer to home.
It was Harry and Meghan who caused the ‘who was the royal racist’ mystery in their Oprah Winfrey interview last March, when it became an open season for any writer to fill their pockets with false speculation at the expense of the royal family.
According to Andersen, the catalyst for Charles’s alleged comments was the engagement of his son and former actress Meghan, almost exactly four years ago, on November 27, 2017.
He claims that a few hours after the announcement, the Prince asked the Duchess of Cornwall over breakfast, ‘I wonder what the children will look like?’ Camilla was said to be “slightly surprised” and reportedly replied, “Well, absolutely gorgeous, I’m sure.”
The prince, the book claims, lowered his voice and added, “I mean, what do you think their children’s skin color might be?”
How tempting does it sound, but can it be true? It’s hard to think of a cruder conversation than suggested here – even if Andersen claims the prince’s words are innocent – not least because it requires a big leap of faith.
A source quoted in the book Brothers and Wives: Inside the Private Lives of William, Kate, Harry and Meghan by Christopher Andersen (pictured) makes the accusation
Who the hell heard this confidential breakfast discussion, complete with voice-lowering inflection, before, as Andersen puts it, “sly courtiers” gave Charles’ words “a racist twist”?
Can we at all be sure that such exchanges have taken place at the breakfast table? The fact is that the couple tends to have breakfast separately – the prince prefers tea and toast, while Camilla often has hers ‘on the go’ or skips it.
No wonder Clarence House staff are perusing the couple’s November 28, 2017 diary, suggesting they would have had little time for such a languid discussion of toast and marmalade.
Charles and Camilla traveled to Stoke-on-Trent for a day of engagements through the Potteries, during which the Duchess gave an interview talking about their joy at Harry and Meghan’s engagement.
If there is any consolation for Charles, it is the opinion of his nearest and dearest that the quotes attributed to him are so improbable and so strange.
No one has worked harder to improve inter-community relations; he is founder of the British Asian Trust, which aims to tackle poverty inequality and injustice in South Asia, and has forged the strongest ties to the Muslim world for years.
He was the first senior royal to appoint a black press secretary, the immensely capable Colleen Harris, he currently has an Asian police bodyguard and he has and still has other BAME (black, Asian and ethnic minorities) personnel.
The problem for Charles is that the repercussions of the royal racist row predate Andersen’s cauldron. It all started with the Oprah broadcast of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The Royal Racist issue started after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sat down with Oprah Winfrey (pictured) in March this year and said a member of the Royal Family had wondered what their children’s skin would be but refused to say. name who it was
It was by far the most explosive and blatant of their so-called “truth bombs” and contributed to the palace’s wry observation that “memories” of what happened “can vary.”
Like many of the couple’s claims, it was largely allowed to go unchallenged. They told Oprah that at least one member of the royal family was concerned about “how dark” their children’s skin might be.
But they were not willing to identify the person involved. A point not lost on the Duchess, who added, “That would be very injurious to them.”
Meghan insisted that questions about Archie’s skin color were also motivated by racism (as opposed to curiosity, for example).
At one point, Oprah told her that “they were afraid that if he was too tan, that would be a problem.”
She replied, “If that’s the assumption you’re making, I think that’s a pretty safe assumption.”
But remember that two very different versions of events were presented to Oprah – by Harry and Meghan – during their interview.
The Duchess claimed that “several conversations” about Archie’s skin color took place “during those months I was pregnant.”
Harry, meanwhile, said there was only one conversation “at the beginning” of their relationship, “before we even got married.”
A more forensic interviewer than Oprah would have questioned this apparent inconsistency. Because while Harry and Meghan just “spoke their truth,” they couldn’t both have been right.
Still, it was devastating enough and played to that gallery of Meghan supporters who believe she was a victim of prejudice within the royal family.
And of course it caused a guessing game that couldn’t prevent Harry’s intervention, who said neither his grandmother nor grandfather were responsible.
According to Andersen, Charles’s “innocent” question “sounded in a less innocent way through the halls of Buckingham Palace” and was “armed” by courtiers.
He goes on to claim that Harry angrily confronted his father, with Charles allegedly telling him he was “oversensitive.”
Prince William, who denounced the claims with his ‘we are not a racist family’ intervention, is said to have described his father’s comments in the book as ‘tactless but no sign of racism’.
Palace insiders question US-based Andersen’s knowledge of such intimate family exchanges. And William, who relentlessly guards his privacy, hasn’t commented yet.
Andersen, predictably, stuck to his claims yesterday.
For Charles in Barbados, there was hope that diplomacy would, for at least one night, replace “fiction.”
But nine months later, the fallout from that toxic Oprah interview shows no signs of abating.