Buckingham Palace has admitted that it “must do more” to improve the diversity of its staff.
In its annual report of the Sovereign Grant – the publicly funded contribution to the Royal Family’s work – the Royal Household revealed that 8.5% of its staff come from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.
The Duke of Duchess of Sussex made accusations of racism within the Household when they were interviewed by Oprah Winfrey earlier this year.
The Keeper of the Privy Purse, Sir Michael Stevens, said that the figures were being published for the first time and that the Royal Household was committed to employing more staff from diverse communities.
He said the target was to reach 10% by 2022, but progress on this front had been hampered by a recruitment freeze that was imposed to offset income losses from the Covid pandemic.
A palace source said: “We recognise that we must do more. We can do better and we have committed to doing better.”
In the UK, an estimated 14% of the population were from ethnic minority backgrounds, which means the Palace’s target of 10% is still a third lower than the national average.
Royal aides said the staff of the household needed to reflect the country they serve: "Her Majesty and other members of the royal family have actively promoted and embraced the diversity of our nation and that of the Commonwealth, and we take our lead from that," they said.
But Buckingham Palace says it has no plans to appoint a “Diversity Tsar” for the moment – although a source said they “wouldn’t rule this out as a possibility” in the future.
“We would be held accountable,” said the source if they did not reach their targets as there is “no place to hide”.
The issue is a particularly sensitive given the Duchess of Sussex - the only senior member of the Royal Family from a diverse background – left the institution with Prince Harry last year and moved back to the United States.
Harry and Meghan told Oprah Winfrey that a member of the Royal Family had questioned the colour of their son Archie’s skin.
The Sussexes would not say which member of the family they were accusing of saying those words but did rule out The Queen and Prince Philip.
Prince William later responded to a question about the matter by saying: “We are very much not a racist family.”
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On the issue of the diversity of their household, Prince Charles and Camilla’s office said they also employed a proportion of staff from minority backgrounds that was nearly half the national average.
Clarence House said their figures were 8% - and faced similar difficulties in addressing the issue because of the recruitment freeze across all Royal Households.
A source in Prince Charles’ office said: “It isn’t good enough, we are determined to do better.”
Separately, a report into bullying allegations against Meghan is still ongoing and was not part of this year’s Sovereign Grant report.
The review was launched after staff working for the Duchess of Sussex when she was based at Kensington Palace submitted an official complaint about how they were treated by Meghan.
The Duchess has submitted her formal response to the inquiry but a royal source said “the review is still progressing”.
The Palace did say that the bullying investigation was not being funded by public money and that it was being paid for “privately” although they refused to identify who was providing the funds.