When Meghan Markle attended the Queen's Christmas luncheon yesterday at Buckingham Palace, she joined about 50 members of the royal family at the gathering, from Prince William and Kate Middleton, to Prince Harry's cousins Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice. And while the former actress mingled with extended members of her fiancé's family, not all first impressions were pleasant.
Princess Michael of Kent—wife of Prince Michael of Kent, Queen Elizabeth II's first cousin—was spotted wearing a racially offensive brooch on her coat while arriving to the palace with her husband. The accessory is a piece of blackamoor jewelry, which fetishize images of slavery.
Some might argue that European renditions of blackamoor art depicted black figures as noblemen, but they still exoticize people of color and are considered dated, racially insensitive, and even taboo today. Dolce & Gabbana caused an uproar in 2012 when it included blackamoor heads on a pair of earrings and on fabric prints in its Spring 2013 collection.
It's unclear whether the princess wore the brooch to intentionally make an offensive statement, or whether it was a clueless decision wear the tone-deaf accessory. But to wear it at all—especially at an event where a celebrated biracial duchess-to-be would attend—is simply inappropriate.
It would be easier to look the other way if the princess didn't have history of racism—but she unfortunately does. In 2004, she reportedly told a group of black customers in a West Village, NYC restaurant to "go back to the colonies" after she complained that they were being noisy.
A few months later, the princess denied making any racial slur at the restaurant, but defended herself with even more tone-deaf comments. "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 ITV interview. The princess added of her trip to Africa, "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."
Eagle-eyed royal fans also noticed the brooch and called out the royal for wearing it at the luncheon.
Last November, when Kensington Palace publicly confirmed that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were dating, he issued a statement condemning "the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments" about his now-fiancée. Princess Michael of Kent might want to give that letter a close read.
Update 12/22: A rep for Princess Michael of Kent says she’s “very sorry and distressed” that she wore the blackamoor brooch to the Queen’s Christmas luncheon, TMZ reports. The piece of jewelry was apparently a gift, which the royal has worn “many times before, without controversy,” according to the site. The royal reportedly vows to never wear it again.
Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace have not left an official comment.