If you dive into anyone’s family – black or white – you’ll find someone to accuse of racism.
Grandad will say something daft, a teenager something thoughtless, and if you start going through the ancestors there’ll be a good chunk of them for whom skin colour was a handy way of deciding who to beat, marry or kill.
It’s a powerful and damaging word to hurl around these days, and people should remember that humans have been crappy to each other for about 2 million years now, and we’re going to have to let most of that go.
Centuries ago we elevated those humans who were good at war, and today their descendants still rule over us although we now handle the battles ourselves. And if they want to stay on that blood-stained pedestal, they need to deserve it.
So when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said a member of the Royal Family inquired after their son’s skin colour, during debates about whether to give him a title or security, we wondered if these higher-than-thous were pretty low. When Buckingham Palace didn’t comment for 56 hours, we became restless. And when a stiff-backed Prince William declared “we are very much not a racist family” yesterday, there was relief he had deigned to mention it, although, to be fair, he didn’t really sell it.
Which family was he talking about? His closest living relatives, the Windsors in general, or everyone going back to William the Conqueror, whose DNA is probably, by this point, distributed equally around the British Isles.
The trouble with William’s claim is that, whichever family he’s talking about, there is racism. Quite a lot of it, in fact. And it’s not out-of-context, reasonable-for-the-time racism. It’s eye-poppingly-bad-even-then-racism.
Here are just a few examples.
1. The time someone senior in William’s immediate family repeatedly asked what colour his nephew’s skin would be while discussing his security needs, and which he has yet to deny.
2. The time Prince William allegedly went to a party dressed as a gorilla, but couldn’t be clearly identified behind the mask, so pictures of Harry at the same party dressed as a Nazi caused a scandal instead.
3. The time his uncle Andrew left then-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith “slack-jawed” at a dinner for the Saudi royals by making “racist comments about Arabs that were unbelievable… it involved a comment about camels”.
4. The time that same uncle referred to “the n***** in the woodpile” to one of David Cameron’s advisers, who was of Sri Lankan descent.
5. The time his granny’s uncle said Adolf Hitler was “not a bad chap” and taught three princesses to throw a Nazi salute, in the same year the Reichstag burned down, Hitler had seized power, the Gestapo was created, Dachau was built, and thousands of Britons protested against rabid anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews.
6. The time that same granny’s uncle ignored government advice to visit Nazi Germany,dined with Goering, Goebbels and Hess, take tea with Hitler, and gave a speech saying that what he had seen “is a miracle; one can only begin to understand it when one realizes that behind it all is one man and one will”.
7 – 9. The time the Queen Mother told a diarist during a drunken lunch “beware the Blackamoors”, the time she told a journalist she “had some reservations about Jews,” and the time she told a lady-in-waiting that “the Africans just don’t know how to govern themselves…what a pity we’re not still looking after them”.
10. The time Princess Michael of Kent wore priceless jewellery depicting an African slave kept as a domestic pet to the wider family’s first meeting with Meghan Markle.
12. The time Queen Victoria became close friends with an Indian Muslim, and her son Edward VII sacked him within hours of her funeral, had him deported, then ordered every record of their relationship to be destroyed.
13. The time the Royal Family set up the Royal African Company, of which Edward Colston was merely a shareholder and employee, and shipped more African slaves across the Atlantic than anyone else.
14. The time that wealthy slave-owner, banker and MP George Smith became enormously wealthy, his granddaughter married the Earl of Strathmore, and her granddaughter Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married a prince, became Queen, and on her death left most of her £70m estate and fine art to the Royal Family.
15. The time she also left about £7m each to Princes William and Harry, who have, presumably, happily lived off the profits of slavery ever since.
If you go through history, everyone’s got a link to slavery. Most of our ancestors, black or white, were slaves at some point.
And of all the things that have been said and done, the Queen, as the current living head of it, has never acknowledged a single thing laid out above.
It would not hurt – it would, at this stage, do a lot to help – if she said what we all know: this is not a private family matter. It’s an issue of constitutional significance, in the UK and for the 2.4billion mostly-brown people in the Commonwealth, and it’s about time the Royals elevated themselves in our eyes.