ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship reports on the resignation of Lady Susan Hussey from her role at Buckingham Palace
A prominent black advocate for survivors of domestic abuse says she was repeatedly asked by a member of the Buckingham Palace household at the Queen Consort’s reception where she “really came from”.
The staff-member has been named as Lady Susan Hussey, who served as Queen Elizabeth II’s lady in waiting for more than 60 years and is a godmother to the Prince of Wales.
ITV News has approached Buckingham Palace for comment.
Ngozi Fulani, chief executive of Sistah Space, described the conversation as a “violation” and said the experience at Camilla’s major engagement on violence against women on Tuesday will “never leave me”.
“Racism has no place in our society” and the comments made at a Buckingham Palace reception were “unacceptable”, a Kensington Palace spokesperson has said.
Ms Fulani, said a household member challenged her when she said her charity was based in Hackney, saying: “No, what part of Africa are you from?”
She detailed the full conversation, which she said happened ten minutes after she arrived, on Twitter, which included the exchange: “Where are you from?’
“Me: ‘Here, UK’. ‘No, but what nationality are you?’ Me: ‘I am born here and am British.’ ‘No, but where do you really come from, where do your people come from?’ Me: ”My people’, lady, what is this?’
“Oh, I can see I am going to have a challenge getting you to say where you’re from.”
Ngozi Fulani told ITV News she questions what 'protection' was there for her 'against this kind of racism' when she entered Buckingham Palace
The full exchange between Ms Fulani and Lady Hussey as detailed by the Sistah Space chief executive
Lady SH: “Where are you from?”
Ms Fulani: “Sistah Space.”
Lady SH: “No where do you come from?
Ms Fulani: “We’re based in Hackney.”
Lady SH: “No, what part of Africa are YOU from?”
Ms Fulani: “I don’t know, they didn’t leave any records.”
Lady SH: “Well, you must know where you’re from, I spent time in France. Where are you from?”
Ms Fulani: “Here, UK”
Lady SH: “No, but what Nationality are you?”
Ms Fulani: “I am born here and am British.”
Lady SH: “No, but where do you really come from, where do your people come from?”
Ms Fulani: “‘My people’, lady, what is this?”
Lady SH: “Oh I can see I am going to have a challenge getting you to say where you’re from. When did you first come here?”
Ms Fulani: “Lady! I am a British national, my parents came here in the 50’s when…”
Lady SH: “Oh, I knew we’d get there in the end, you’re Caribbean!”
Ms Fulani: “No lady, I am of African heritage, Caribbean descent and British nationality.”
Lady SH: “Oh so you’re from….”
Ms Fulani, who founded Sistah Space in 2015 to provide specialist support for African and Caribbean heritage women affected by abuse, wrote: “Mixed feelings about yesterday’s visit to Buckingham Palace.
“10 mins after arriving, a member of staff … approached me, moved my hair to see my name badge. The conversation below took place. The rest of the event is a blur.”
She thanked Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, and Safe Lives chief executive Suzanne Jacob for their support on the day.
Ms Reid, the first person of colour to lead a national political party in British history, tweeted she had also heard the exchange.
“I was right there. I witnessed this first hand,” she said.
“We were at an event that was supposed to celebrate our work.
“For people like … people like us will never really belong here.”
Responding to messages of support, Ms Fulani wrote: “Standing there in a room packed with people while this violation was taking place was so strange, especially as the event was about violence against women.
“That feeling of not knowing what to do, will NEVER leave me. Almost alone in a room full of advocates.”
She said it was a “struggle to stay in a space where you were violated”.
She outlined her distress at not being able to report the incident, saying she felt she could not tell Camilla.
“There was nobody to report it to. I couldn't (sic) report it to the Queen Consort, plus it was such a shock to me and the other 2 women, that we were stunned to temporary silence,” she wrote.
“I just stood at the edge of the room, smiled & engaged briefly with who spoke to me until I could leave.”
Ms Jacob tweeted it was “a horrible thing to happen, and in a space that should have been nothing but love and celebration”.
Mandu Reid, leader of the Women's Equality Party, told ITV News she witnessed the conversation between Ms Fulani and Lady Susan, describing it as 'a bit like an interrogation'
She added she would be raising it with the team who organised for them to be there.
A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said: "We take this incident extremely seriously and have investigated immediately to establish the full details. In this instance, unacceptable and deeply regrettable comments have been made. We have reached out to Ngozi Fulani on this matter, and are inviting her to discuss all elements of her experience in person if she wishes.
"In the meantime, the individual concerned would like to express her profound apologies for the hurt caused and has stepped aside from her honorary role with immediate effect. All members of the Household are being reminded of the diversity and inclusivity policies which they are required to uphold at all times."
The matter raises serious questions for the Palace, where an unnamed royal was accused last year by the Duchess of Sussex of racism against her unborn son Archie.
Meghan, the first mixed race person to marry a senior royal for centuries, said during her Oprah interview that a royal – not the Queen nor the Duke of Edinburgh – expressed concerns with Harry about how dark Archie’s skin tone might be before he was born.
The Queen issued a statement saying that the issues raised would be dealt with privately as a family, but that “some recollections may vary”.
Sistah Space said they would not be naming the household member, adding: “We at Sistah Space would like to raise awareness about this issue rather than shame another individual.”
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