The institution waited two days before responding to the Oprah interview with a statement that acknowledged the allegations around race were concerning, but it omitted any condemnation of racism. In just twelve seconds this morning, Prince William tackled the central charge head on.
— Matt Wilkinson (@MattSunRoyal) March 11, 2021
Prince William has spoken about the Oprah race claims by Harry and Meghan today at a school visit. Asked if the Royal Family were racist he said: "Very much not a racist family". pic.twitter.com/HgE8SLpEZ6
TV doorstepping — shouting a question at someone without prior agreement while armed with a camera and microphone — can be a fruitless task. Doing it when the target is a royal is a soulless endeavour. This morning, at a school in east London, fortune favoured the bold.
When a reporter asked William, 'is the royal family a racist family, sir?' he received a reply from the masked second in line to the throne, who spoke as he walked, 'we’re very much not a racist family'.
William could have ignored his would-be inquisitor. He has in the past and his father did just that the other day when quizzed about the Oprah programme. But it would have looked very bad and it’s clear the allegation has hurt the Windsors and hurt deeply. They know the suggestion that one of Harry’s relatives asked about the darkness of Archie’s skin is a toxic claim for a family with a global reach.
And we shouldn’t lose sight of just how striking this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment was and how bad things are for the royals right now. An American television programme devoured by millions has forced the future head of state of a multicultural country (and fifteen others — if they're still Commonwealth realms by the time William’s crowned) to insist the House of Windsor, his flesh and blood, aren’t racists.
Of course, William might have been spared the indignity of being doorstepped by a reporter if the Palace response to the Oprah interview had been more robust and contained the denial that he articulated in a school playground. It leaves me to wonder whether he regrets the weakness of the official response or whether he was not as involved in the drafting as he could have been.
The doorstepping reporter had two triumphs, not just one. In answer to his first question, 'have you spoken to your brother since the interview', William replied, 'no, I haven’t spoken to him yet, but I will do'. Three days on from Meghan telling the world she’d had suicidal thoughts while pregnant, William still hasn’t spoken to her or to Harry.
The brothers are riven, in their trenches and communicating via chat show hosts and off the record briefings to newspapers. It’s sad, unseemly and provides succour to those who seek a head of state who isn’t in post because of an accident of birth. With hurt on all sides, recovery will take time as the ruptures run deep. As a first step, the royals from the Queen down could adopt a motto made famous by Bob Hoskins in the nineties, 'It’s good to talk'.