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.