On November 8, 2016, Prince Harry released a remarkable, unprecedented statement.
It was a week since news of his relationship with the actress Meghan Markle was made public, and his frustration had boiled to a point he decided it must be made public.
“The past week has seen a line crossed,” the statement read. “His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”
Markle was widely considered as a trailblazing choice for the incredibly white royal family, given her half-Caucasian, half-African American heritage.
The British press had met news of their relationship with overwhelming coverage; much of it racist. The royal family’s statement was decisive, firm and absolute: They had no time for discrimination in any form.
Fast forward a year and one month, and Markle – now the fiancée of Harry – is invited to the royal family’s Christmas celebrations. Among the many paparazzi photos taken of each family member arriving, is one of Princess Michael of Kent. She’s wearing a beige coat, black turtleneck and a brooch that has since garnered international attention.
The brooch itself – a piece of ‘Blackamoor’ art – was first spotted by Lainey Gossip and points to a quiet truth about Markle’s entrance into the royal family: Perhaps Prince Harry’s fears for Markle encountering racism in the role wasn’t exclusive to the public. That in fact, some if it lies within his own family.
For years, debate has surfaced about the racist nature of ‘Blackamoor’ art. Appearing in paintings, jewellery and textiles, the ‘art’, according to a piece penned by Anneke Rautenbach for NYU, typically shows men “commonly fixed in positions of servitude—as footmen or waiters, for example—the figures personify fantasies of racial conquest.”
For context, this is not the first time jewellery of this kind has created an international media storm.
In 2012, Dolce & Gabbana invited outrage when it included a caricatured black woman figurine on an earring as part of its latest collection.
At the time, Refinery29 were scathing in their review, calling the jewellery “cartoonish, debasing, subaltern imagery that would make even your politically incorrect Grandpa think twice.”
“These severed heads dangling from a pale-skinned model’s ear are not fun or playful, but simply evocative of some of the darkest times in Western history,” their piece read.
Of course, in the case of Princess Michael of Kent – the wife of Queen Elizabeth’s first cousin – it, too, isn’t the first time her racist tendencies have sat on an international stage.
In 2004, she reportedly told a group of diners at a New York restaurant to “go back to the colonies.”
A few months later, in response to inevitable backlash, Princess Michael managed to dig a much deeper, far more unsalvageable hole.
"I even pretended years ago to be an African, a half-caste African, but because of my light eyes I did not get away with it, but I dyed my hair black," she said in an interview with ITV1.
"I travelled on African buses. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted experiences from Cape Town to right up in northern Mozambique. I had this adventure with these absolutely adorable, special people and to call me racist: it's a knife through the heart because I really love these people."
Her father, it should be noted, was a Nazi party member who served as a Major in the SS during the Second World War. It's certainly not the only link the royal family has to the Nazi party. Footage released in 2015 by The Sun, shot in 1933 or 1934, appears to show Queen Elizabeth II as a young girl performing the Nazi salute, as coached by her Nazi sympathiser uncle, Edward.
Earlier this year, diarist Sir Roy Strong - who spent decades documenting the lives of members of the royal family - said many racist comments made by the Queen Mother were "too awful" to publish anywhere.
In one anecdote, he recalls:
"Suddenly in the middle of lunch, I was on the left of her I think, and the Queen was in Africa at the time, and the Queen Mother leant over to me and said ‘Beware the blackamoors’. I can’t put that down."
And so, coming all the way back to the curious case of Princess Michael and that remarkably ignorant brooch, one thing is clear and another is not. Firstly, it's uncomfortably clear that Markle is entering a family that has ugly history of racism. But secondly, it's not obvious if Princess Michael of Kent was being deliberately antagonistic or foolishly misinformed.
Perhaps given her history, it's somewhere between the two.
Listen: The Mamamia Out Loud team on Meghan Markle at royal Christmas.