- Published 36 minutes ago bbc.com
Charity boss Ngozi Fulani says she was “completely stunned”
By Andre Rhoden-Paul
A black British charity boss who was repeatedly asked where she was “really” from at a royal reception has told the BBC the encounter was “abuse”.
Ngozi Fulani was questioned about her background by Lady Susan Hussey, Prince William’s godmother, at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday. The late Queen’s lady-in-waiting has since resigned.
Ms Fulani likened the conversation with Lady Hussey, 83, to “an interrogation”.
The palace described the remarks as “unacceptable and deeply regrettable”.
And a spokesperson for Prince William said “racism has no place in our society”. The incident has overshadowed the Prince and Princess of Wales’s visit to the US to hand out awards for his Earthshot Prize.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Fulani, who founded domestic violence charity Sistah Space, described how the conversation unfolded.
“It was like an interrogation. I guess the only way I can explain it, she’s determined: ‘Where are you from? Where are your people from?'”
Ms Fulani also rebuffed suggestions that Lady Hussey’s remarks had anything to do with her age.
“Let us be clear what this is. I’ve heard so many suggestions it’s about her age and stuff like that, and I think that’s kind of a disrespect – an ageism kind of thing.
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Ms Fulani continued: “If you invite people to an event, against domestic abuse, and there are people there from different demographics, I don’t see the relevance of whether I’m British or not British.
“I’m very proud of my African heritage. This is like the Windrush thing to me. You’re trying to make me unwelcome in my own space.
“I have to really question how this can happen in a space that’s supposed to protect women against all kinds of violence.
“Although it’s not physical violence – it is an abuse.”
Lady Hussey was a key figure in the Royal Household for many decades, having started working for the Royal Family in the same year the Queen gave birth to Prince Andrew, eventually becoming her longest-serving lady-in-waiting.
Buckingham Palace announced last week that Lady Hussey and the other former ladies-in-waiting would subsequently be known as “ladies of the household” – a role which involves helping to host occasions at the palace.
Asked if she would have preferred to accept Lady Hussey’s apology instead of seeing her quit the Royal Household, Ms Fulani said: “I would have preferred it did not happen.
“I want the focus to remain where it should be, which is on the women and girls who are affected by domestic abuse.”
In its statement on Wednesday, Buckingham Palace 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.”
A spokesperson for Prince William said “racism has no place in our society”, adding: “The comments were unacceptable, and it is right that the individual has stepped aside with immediate effect”.
In an interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Ms Fulani said Buckingham Palace had not contacted her about the incident, insisting she would accept an invitation to discuss it with them.
“See, what we’re about is positive results, so absolutely, I think a discussion should be held,” she said.
Ms Fulani was at the reception representing her London-based charity, which supports women of African and Caribbean heritage across the UK who have faced domestic and sexual abuse.
She was one of 300 guests at the event, where the Queen Consort, Camilla, had warned of a “global pandemic of violence against women”.
But afterwards, Ms Fulani described on Twitter how the royal aide had moved her hair aside to see her name badge, and then challenged her to explain where she was from.