Scobie: What does the Susan Hussey debacle say about the royal court?

I didn’t want Omid Scobie’s latest Yahoo UK column to get lost in the shuffle of the larger royal-gossip narratives of the past two weeks. Yahoo published the piece on Friday, and it’s mostly about the Susan Hussey debacle last week and how that incident reflects the larger racist and racial issues within the monarchy. Susan Hussey’s racist interrogation of Ngozi Fulani was a huge story, one which overshadowed the first day of the Waleses’ Boston trip. Then the Sussexes’ Netflix trailer overshadowed the rest of the Boston trip, and wouldn’t you know, the Netflix series is going to be about how poorly the royal establishment handles race and racism too. Some highlights from Scobie’s piece:

The Hussey debacle: The encounter was appalling but, sadly, didn’t shock many. The relationship between royals and racial sensitivity is similar to that of oil and water. Diversity at royal events sounds great, but does it work if the people there aren’t equipped to deal with it? Ms Fulani’s problematic encounter with one of Queen Elizabeth II’s most treasured aides was a reminder that little changes in the House of Windsor.

The palace couldn’t deny the incident: This time, however, with several eyewitnesses and a named culprit (“Lady SH”), there were no varying recollections to point out or comment requests to ignore. The speed at which the indisputable story spread on Twitter forced Buckingham Palace to handle the matter fast. But while their swift response may have put out a small part of the fire, bigger flames still roared. To many, particularly people of colour, Tuesday’s incident was a reminder of the countless times issues concerning race have been pushed to one side by the Palace.

The royal who made racist comments about what Harry & Meghan’s children would look like: With no royal named by the Sussexes, palace officials did their best at the time to curtail media coverage and public discussion by announcing that the accusation would be discussed “privately” as a family (it wasn’t) before new, negative stories about Harry and Meghan (courtesy of the “palace sources” being quoted) conveniently surfaced in British newspapers.

The Palace’s immediate reaction was about optics, not humanity: [Many] believe that the palace’s reaction was more likely an attempt at protecting Prince William’s long-planned trip to Boston for his Earthshot Prize ceremony — his first big overseas trip since the disaster that was his March tour of the Caribbean. But the palace’s rush to claim they reached out to Ngozi, who over a day later claims she was yet to hear a word from anyone, is a sign that the Palace may have just been thinking about optics, not humanity.

The Windsors’ problematic history: You see, the royals and racism is a long and problematic history that continues to this day. The grim jokes Prince Philip used to make about “slitty eyes” or Indigenous people were often dismissed as fun gaffes. And in the workplace itself, there was the 1968 memo against hiring “coloured immigrants or foreigners” to some roles in the palace. More recently, in 2001, a Black secretary of 10 years accused Prince Charles’ valet Michael Fawcett during an employment tribunal of calling her a “fucking n*** typist” in 1996. Fawcett went on to become senior valet to Charles. While the tribunal ruled the allegation was unproven, it should have been a fundamental moment for the palace to become more aware of such concerns in the future.

What the Susan Hussey debacle really says: Ultimately, Lady Susan is a product of the environment she served for and lived in for 60-something years. If a supposed expert in royal etiquette and diplomacy is willing to talk to a woman of colour like that in the gentile setting of a royal engagement, what’s said behind the scenes when the cameras are away?

Meghan’s connection to Susan Hussey: Previous reports have claimed that, during her time as a working royal, a “difficult” Duchess of Sussex turned down the opportunity to be mentored by Lady Susan on the “complexities” of royal life. Given what Meghan experienced within the royal institution (there are a number of claims that have yet to be aired publicly), can one really blame her for not being attracted to the offer? After all, even putting race to one side, this is the same Lady-in-Waiting who, per sources, would privately make disparaging comments about Meghan, and Princess Diana allegedly “couldn’t stand”. If in just a few minutes Hussey could make a group of accomplished and upstanding Black women feel like “trespassers”, then imagine what months of guidance could have been like for a biracial duchess.

The Windsors need to do more: Ownership of the issue needs to go further than a statement and a prayer that the story will disappear quickly. It’s time to reflect. No more false promises (remember the diversity tsar?), no more trying to silence those who speak up about these issues, no more boasting about championing diversity in the workplace (when almost zero of the staff hired are in senior positions). Face the problems, own them and—most importantly—educate yourselves.

[From Yahoo UK]

From what I remember of the reporting about Meghan and Susan Hussey, they did meet because QEII “sent” Hussey to brief Meghan on royal protocol, etc. After which, Hussey badmouthed Meghan to multiple people. Hussey is still being held up as a paragon of aristocratic breeding and manners, when really she’s just a racist a–hole who has never been told (before now) that she’s extremely tacky and horrible. I also think the theory (which I’ve seen multiple times on Twitter) that Hussey is being protected by the media so much because she was one of their favorite “royal insider” sources. As in, she’s one of the “royal insiders” regularly briefing the media on what Charles, William, Camilla and Kate really think about this or that (mostly the Sussexes). She’s not someone on the periphery of the establishment, she’s at the very heart of it.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Cover Images.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

34 Responses to “Scobie: What does the Susan Hussey debacle say about the royal court?”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Beach Dreams says:

    “Given what Meghan experienced within the royal institution (there are a number of claims that have yet to be aired publicly), can one really blame her for not being attracted to the offer?”

    This line was an eye-catcher the first time I read Scobie’s article. We already know there’s SO much Meghan hasn’t said (largely because she’s still processing and healing from that time), but the way that little aside was slipped in there…oof. This is exactly what everyone in the Firm is afraid of; they’re scared that Meghan will eventually reveal everything that they did and said to/about her.

  2. Normades says:

    And this was the woman to “mentor” Diana and Megan. JFC

  3. CourtneyB says:

    She probably was also protected because her late husband was in Associated Newspapers and other media for decades, culminating in being chairman of the bbc. His family and hers are deep in Tory circles. She’s deeply entrenched in royal, aristocratic, political and media circles.

    • Dot Gingell says:

      Marmaduke Hussey was Chair of the Board of Governors at the BBC when Bashir interviewed Diana for Panorama. It was kept secret from him because he wasn’t trusted. They knew he’d tell his wife and she would go running to the Queen and UpChuck.

  4. ML says:

    It’s so disheartening and infuriating to see how Ngozi Fulani has been treated. As far as I know, she’s still awaiting proper apologies from Susan Hussey and Camzilla. It’s also awful how many people have been attacking Ngozi and Omid Scobie online.
    King Willem-Alexander just announced that the U of Leiden is going to investigate HIS family’s ties to the slave trade during the next 3 years. And the Netherlands is sending a bunch of delegations (not without controversy) to the Caribbean and Suriname to apologize for slavery, which is at least finally a first step to acknowledging the atrocities.
    Why the eff isn’t GB and the RF doing THIS instead of protecting a racist crone?

    • KFG says:

      They all need to apologize, pay reparations, and stop forcing African countries to do exclusive trade deals with them. This is performative without those actions.

      • ML says:

        I agree with the reparations, and that is actually why some people do not want to apologize! The Dutch only started including the history of the enslaved less than 10 years ago in the school curriculum—before then they taught pride in colonization, and that means that there are a hell of a lot of people who are ignorant of the consequences. So, while years behind and not nearly enough, I’m glad that the government and DRF is acknowledging the evil parts of their history. And I do think that an apology is necessary. Beyond that, I believe that families, governments (local, provincial, national), and businesses that profited from enslaving Africans, Asians and people of the Americas should be reimbursed.

    • Princessk says:

      The treatment of Ngozi Fulani has been appalling. She needs our support. For me she is a real heroine for being brave enough to speak out and l will be donating to her charity.

      • TurquoiseGem says:

        Yes agreed, the treatment of Ngozi Fulani has been appalling. Absolutely appalling.

        I so admire her bravery and courage in speaking up and out, and made a donation to Sistah Space, last week.

  5. Becks1 says:

    I think she’s being protected for several reasons, including that she was one of the big sources for leaks for H&M (she is one who would know the real tiara story, for example), and she is well connected in the newspaper world, I imagine even to this day. Plus, the establishment is always going to protect/side with the white woman over the black woman.

    but Scobie is completely right in that this tells us a lot about what happens at BP when the cameras aren’t there.

    And, re: Scobie – THIS is why diversity in reporting is so important. he saw right away how things were going with Meghan and he saw the dog whistles for what they were from the start. And now, he has a much better perspective and take on these issues than the other RRs. It’s not because he’s some brilliant reporter with all these inside scoops; its because he brings a different perspective as one of the few non-white reporters on the royal beat.

    • Kingston says:

      Ditto to everything you say. PLUS: its why the britshidtrag clowns say Omid is M’s “friend.” Thats because he is a reporter, not a royal sycophant like the rest of them.

      And in pushing this narrative about Omid being M’s “friend” its either because theyre that stupid or they believe the british consumers of their cr@p are that stupid.

    • Nancy says:

      I am compelled to add though, that even though his perspective is different, it still takes bravery. Omid is surely shunned by his journalist colleagues, and that isolation isn’t easy. Of course everyone is a critic, but I am constantly amazed how he is guided by something bigger then the next scoop or the coziness of fitting in. I do wonder if I was in the same position, would I be as brave?

  6. PrincessK says:

    Hussey publicly told a room full of people that the Sussex marriage would not last.

  7. PrincessK says:

    On reflection I actually think that Hussey should not have been sacked but made to undergo anti racism training. The Palace acted in self interest and not public interest because it failed to get to the root problem which is the institution itself. All staff from top to bottom in all palaces should be offered training in institutional racism and unconscious bias. A reformed Hussey should be used as a training module, preferably in person.

    • Chaine says:

      I don’t think this person is reformable, tbh. And it’s not like they’ve put her out to pasture, she is William’s godmother and her daughter is one of Camilla’s six appointed companions. I’m sure we will see her as a guest at important events soon enough and I bet she will be in a prominent seat at the coronation. All of her social set will sympathize with her and soothe her that she did nothing wrong.

    • New.Here says:

      I love this idea!

      Firing Hussey is a self protective move and did nothing to fix the actual problem. Anti-bias racism and unconscious (or in this case very conscious) bias training would show accountability. Excellent thought!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Ngozi Fulani also said that she thought Lady Susan Hussey shouldn’t have been sacked, but she should have been anti-racism training.

      • pottymouth pup says:

        ah but if they offered her the opportunity to take such training, she probably would have refused and just sacking her gave her the option to try to claim she’s really not racist at all whereas refusing training (and probably eventually being overheard of calling is nonsense or rubbish) wouldn’t have aided her, her supporters or the firm continue to claim she doesn’t have a racist bone in her body.

      • Deering24 says:

        Too many racists who undergo diversity training pay it lip service at best, denigrate it at worst. Their entire identity is wrapped up in feeling superior and the longer they’ve been at it, the harder it is for them to change. They don’t think they are wrong, and until that reckoning comes, they are incapable of learning.

  8. Lolalola says:

    I am so glad that Ngozi Fulani tweeted about what happened. Make it public and do it fast. Not only did the Palace bring this horrid racist to the event but then they actually said they had reached out to the Sistah Space CEO to make amends when they hadn’t! Let’s see, what is the less here? Be racist, lie about it, wash, repeat. Disgusting. I hope Sistah Space receives huge financial support for years to come as a result of this incident.

    • MY3CENTS says:

      Yes, I was glad she was in a position to expose them and bring the recipients.
      The timing of this along with the statement about the real security issues HM faced is also good because it lays (more)validation for what they said all along but could not expose.

  9. Loki says:

    There was a very brief episode when nearly everyone was sympathetic towards Ngozi Fulani. Then everything snapped back to normal, and Ms Fulani was attacked for everything from taking offence too easily, to having the cheek to go public about her experience. In the usual quarters, Susan Hussey became the victim. First, it was her age and how she didn’t mean to be rude, she was just a product of her generation. When that didn’t work, they tried “she’s deaf” and misheard what Ngozi was saying. Then we got a lot of drivel about her 60 years of service “to the country”. At least, so far, the palace has made no excuses for her, mainly because they couldn’t. But being witnessed being openly racist hasn’t stopped the tabloids defence of Hussey.

    • MY3CENTS says:

      So tomorrow we’ll be hearing Ngozi made her cry?

    • ncboudicca says:

      Wow, never knew that deafness was an excuse to go around touching strangers’ hair/bodies without asking permission. What will they come up with next to defend that woman??

    • Athena says:

      Fulani’s not for profit organization may suffer financially from her exposing Hussey. I won’t be surprise if some current funding is not renewed.

  10. Linder says:

    I hope he meant to write genteel, not gentile which has a very different meaning. If not he’s saying even more about the RF.

    • Vanessa says:

      Thank you for noticing this. I’ve noticed a lot of malapropisms in journalism lately and some of them quite meaningful, like gentile vs genteel. Words are so beautiful and layered and interesting and I wish people cared more… in general.

      As for LSH, agree – publicly train and redeploy her so people can see that it is possible to learn to be a better human.

  11. Steph says:

    I can’t believe she is wearing a choker with her neck looking like that ….

    I’m glad Scobie brought up Michael Fawcett. I said several days ago on Twitter that she “stepped aside from her official role” much the same way Fawcett did on several occasions just to pop up in the royals employ elsewhere.

  12. C says:

    I can tell exactly what this old crone’s breath smells like just from her bitter pursed lips face.

  13. QuiteContrary says:

    Thank goodness Fulani had witnesses to Hussey’s terrible treatment of her. Because you just know that a sole Black woman wouldn’t have been believed.

  14. blunt talker says:

    It’s rotten from the head to the toe-this is hundreds of years of thinking that goes from the top to the bottom.