The Duke of Sussex said there is a “huge level of unconscious bias” in the royal family as he discussed the issue of racism during his controversial Netflix series.
It comes just over 18 months after Harry and wife Meghan, who is the first mixed-race member of the modern monarchy, painted the institution as racist and uncaring during an interview with American talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
During the second episode of Harry & Meghan, the couple, who quit as senior working royals and moved to the US, looked at some of the headlines in the UK tabloid press ahead of Kensington Palace’s statement on the media’s treatment of the Duchess of Sussex.
They included “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton”.
Meghan said: “Firstly, I’m not from Compton, I’ve never lived in Compton, so it’s factually incorrect. But why do you have to make a dig at Compton?”
Other headlines shown in the Netflix documentary are “One’s gone GanstER”, and another saying Meghan’s ancestors were a “tailor, a teacher and a cleaner in racially divided Jim Crow South”.
Harry said: “Eight days after the relationship became public I put out a statement calling out the racist undertones of articles and headlines that were written by the British press as well as outright racism from those articles across social media.”
He added that during this time members of the royal family asked why the duchess should be “protected” when they questioned newspaper headlines about her.
“The direction from the Palace was don’t say anything,” he said.
“But what people need to understand is, as far as a lot of the family were concerned, everything that she was being put through, they had been put through as well.
“So it was almost like a rite of passage, and some of the members of the family were like ‘My wife had to go through that, so why should your girlfriend be treated any differently?’ ‘Why should you get special treatment?’ ‘Why should she be protected?’”
“I said ‘The difference here is the race element’.”
The third episode of the documentary refers to an event in 2017 when Princess Michael of Kent wore a Blackamoor-style brooch which was deemed to be racist.
Harry said: “In this family, sometimes you are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. There is a huge level of unconscious bias.
“The thing with unconscious bias, it is actually no-one’s fault. But once it has been pointed out, or identified within yourself, you then need to make it right. It is education. It is awareness. It is a constant work in progress for everybody, including me.”
The duke referred to his decision to go to a private fancy dress party in 2005 in the guise of a Nazi soldier from the Afrika Korps complete with swastika emblazoned on his arm , which caused widespread outrage.
He said: “It was probably one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I felt so ashamed afterwards. All I wanted to do was make it right.”
In the new Netflix series, Harry, who is seen walking with his son, Archie, who was speaking with an American accent, said it is important that he and Meghan “don’t repeat the same mistakes” their parents made.
The duke said: “My son, my daughter, my children are mixed race, and I’m really proud of that.
“When my kids grow up, and they look back at this moment, and they turn to me and say ‘What did you do in this moment?’ I want to be able to give them an answer.
“I think it is such a responsibility as human beings that, if you bring a small person into this world, that you should be doing everything you can to make the world a better place for them.
“But, equally, what’s most important for the two of us is to make sure that we don’t repeat the same mistakes that perhaps our parents made.”
The documentary comes after serious concerns over racism within the monarchy hit the headlines again when the late Queen’s lady in waiting, Lady Susan Hussey, repeatedly questioned black domestic abuse campaigner Ngozi Fulani at a Buckingham Palace reception about where she “really came from”.
Lady Susan, the Prince of Wales’s 83-year-old godmother, resigned from the household and apologised after she repeatedly challenged Ms Fulani when she said she was British at the Queen Consort’s reception highlighting violence against women and girls.
It also comes after Meghan and Harry alleged during the interview with Winfrey in March 2021 that a member of the family – not the Queen nor the Duke of Edinburgh – made a racist comment about their son, and claimed that the duchess had suicidal thoughts but her approaches to the monarchy for help were turned down.
In the interview, the duchess said a fellow royal expressed concern about how dark their son Archie’s skin tone might be before he was born.
– The first three episodes of the six-part Harry & Meghan Netflix series began streaming at 8am on Thursday. The following three episodes will air in a week’s time, on December 15, the streaming giant has confirmed.