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Charity boss tells LBC of 'race interrogation' ordeal by Prince William's godmother at Buckingham Palace reception

30 November 2022, 15:21 | Updated: 30 November 2022, 15:57

Ms Fulani, pictured near Camilla at the event (left) complained of being subjected to a series of uncomfortable questions by Lady Susan Hussey (inset) who later quit
Ms Fulani, pictured near Camilla at the event (left) complained of being subjected to a series of uncomfortable questions by Lady Susan Hussey (inset) who later quit. Picture: Alamy/Getty/Social media

By Will Taylor

A Buckingham Palace guest who was "interrogated" about her racial identity by Prince William's godmother has spoken about how she was stunned when she moved her dreadlocks.

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Lady Susan Hussey repeatedly asked about Ngozi Fulani's background at the event, asking where in Africa she came from, leaving Ms Fulani feeling insulted as she explained she is British.

Lady Susan, who was a member of the Buckingham Palace household, resigned and apologised over "unacceptable and regrettable comments" made at a reception held by the Queen Consort.

Ms Fulani, CEO of Hackney charity Sistah Space, a group that supports African and Caribbean women affected by domestic and sexual abuse, said she had suffered "trauma" and "damage" after being "invited and then insulted" at the event.

And speaking to LBC on Wednesday, she revealed nobody at the Palace had spoken to her about the incident.

The Palace said it had reached out to her and Prince William said there was no room for racism in society.

Ms Fulani told LBC's Shelagh Fogarty the whole experience was "slow" and "painful" and she "just wanted it to end".

Read more: Prince William's godmother quits and apologises after race row erupts at Queen Consort’s Palace reception

"The first thing she did was take my locks and move it because she wanted to see my name badge, which was an offence in itself," Ms Fulani said.

Ngozi Fulani reflects on racism she experienced at Buckingham Palace

Lady Susan Hussey has resigned after the comments made at the Buckingham Palace event
Lady Susan Hussey has resigned after the comments made at the Buckingham Palace event. Picture: Getty

"She literally took a bunch of them, and moved them out of the way - that’s a no-no in my culture.

"She made a bee-line for me, that in itself was curious. We were standing on the periphery. It was very clear very quickly that it was almost like, justify yourself being here - where are you from?

"I was blindsided because it was an invitation from Buckingham Palace.

"My thing is - what do I do? Where do I go? Who do I tell. You just have to stay there and take it basically.

"What she needed to do was to satisfy herself that I don’t qualify as British and I just thought wow."

In a statement released after her LBC interview, a spokesperson at Kensington Palace said: "I want to address the story relating to a guest attending a reception at Buckingham Palace last night.

"This is a matter for Buckingham Palace but as the Prince of Wales spokesperson I appreciate you're all here and understand you'll want to ask about it. So let me address is head on.

"I was really disappointed to hear about the guests experience at Buckingham Palace last night."

"Obviously, I wasn't there, but racism has no place in our society. The comments were unacceptable, and it is right that the individual has stepped aside with immediate effect."

Speaking to LBC, Ms Fulani said: "Buckingham Palace puts out an invitation for 16 days of activism for violence against women. That kind of 'violence' you don’t expect at an event like this. I feel violated. I'm just as stunned as everybody else.

"I don't want to have her targeted because I still feel that this is about violence against women. Even though she was really wrong I don't think the solution is to put her out there.

Royal aide 'needed to satisfy herself that I don't qualify as British'

"Nobody from the Palace has spoken to me, unless they've spoken to somebody from Sistah Space, I've not spoken to anybody."

She added: "I'd be happy to have a conversation with anybody to bring about a positive solution.

"I wish that the lady could be spoken to and know the damage that she can cause. But for her to resign and all that stuff, that has nothing to do with me and I don’t feel good about that. She's an elder. This does not please me.

"I would be satisfied if she was moved to another position."

She said the Palace needs to ensure that "this kind of thing does not happen again".

"To ask somebody a question [about their background] I've no problem with that. But that wasn't a question, that was an interrogation.

"The whole idea behind it was to denounce that I’m British and that was not acceptable.

"We have to recognise when things are unacceptable. If you represent the Palace, you can't make those kind of mistakes.

"If you cause that level of damage, then you have to address that."

Ngozi Fulani pictured near the Queen Consort at the event at Buckingham Palace
Ngozi Fulani pictured near the Queen Consort at the event at Buckingham Palace. Picture: Alamy

Lady Susan, one of Queen Consort Camilla's closest aides and a close friend of the late Queen, quit today over the remarks.

The resignation will be viewed as a humiliation for Camilla and will cast a shadow over a trip by Lady Susan's godson Prince William, who lands in the US today with the Princess of Wales for a three-day tour.

Ms Fulani said a member of Palace staff, who she referred to as Lady SH, moved her hair out of the way of her name badge before asking her questions about her heritage that left her "shocked".

She said two other women who overheard the exchange were also "stunned to temporary silence".

She said: "10 mins after arriving, a member of staff approached me, moved my hair to see my name badge."

Ms Fulani posted a screenshot of the alleged exchange on social media
Ms Fulani posted a screenshot of the alleged exchange on social media. Picture: Twitter

She goes on to say that she was asked a series of questions about her racial heritage. Posting what she said was a transcript of the conversation online, Ms Fulani said she explained she was from the Sistah Space charity and was asked: "Where do you come from?"

"We're based in Hackney," said Ms Fulani.

"No, what part of Arica are you from?" the staff member is said to have asked.

"I don’t know, they didn't leave any records."

The Queen Consort at the Buckingham Palace reception, which was to raise awareness of violence against women and girls as part of the UN 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence
The Queen Consort at the Buckingham Palace reception, which was to raise awareness of violence against women and girls as part of the UN 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. Picture: Alamy

"Well you must know where you’re from, I spent time in France. Where are you from?"

"Here, UK," said Ms Fulani.

"No but what nationality are you?"

"I am born here and am British."

"No, but where do you really come from, where do your people come from?"

"'My people', lady, what is this?"

"Oh I can see I am going to have a challenge getting you to say where you’re from. When did you first come here?"

"Lady! I am a British national, my parents came here in the 50's when…"

"Oh I knew we'd get there in the end, you're Caribbean!"

The Queen Consort with Danish Crown Princess Mary during the reception at Buckingham Palace
The Queen Consort with Danish Crown Princess Mary during the reception at Buckingham Palace. Picture: Alamy

"No, lady, I am of African heritage, Caribbean descent and British nationality."

Ms Fulani went on to say she had been left "shocked" by the exchange, which was overheard by two other women.

"We were stunned to temporary silence," she said.

"I stood at the edge of the room, smiled and engaged briefly with [sic] who spoke to me until I could leave."

"I think it is essential to acknowledge that trauma has occurred and being invited and then insulted has caused much damage.

The Queen Consort with Home Secretary Suella Braverman at the event on violence against women
The Queen Consort with Home Secretary Suella Braverman at the event on violence against women. Picture: Alamy

"It was such a struggle to stay in a space that you were violated in. Yesterday made me realise an ugly truth which I am still trying to process."

Buckingham Palace said in a statement: "'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."

Mandu Reid, leader of the Women's Equality Party, who was next to Ms Fulani and witnessed the exchange, told the PA news agency they were treated almost like "trespassers".

Ms Reid said: "We really felt 'oh, OK, we're being treated almost like trespassers in this place'. We're not being treated as if we belong, we're not being embraced as if we are British."

She described the exchange as "grim" and like an "interrogation", adding" "She was really persistent. She didn't take Ngozi's answers at face value."

The Queen Consort was supported by several of her most trusted friends at the event.

Camilla's six newly named Queen's companions were on hand as she held the gathering of around 300 people at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.

She met various dignitaries, celebrity ambassadors and politicians as well as survivors of domestic violence and relatives of some women who have lost their lives.

After giving a passionate speech in the palace's picture gallery on what can be done to tackle the "heinous" crime, Camilla set about mingling with guests as she met scores of women, a number of whom had been directly affected by the issue.

Also attending the event were Queen Mathilde of Belgium, Queen Rania of Jordan and the Crown Princess Mary of Denmark as well as the First Ladies of Ukraine and Sierra Leone.

Camilla's new Queen's companions - not traditional ladies-in-waiting - appeared publicly with her for their first engagement since being named as such at the weekend.

The women, who will support her as she carries out her key official and state duties as Queen Consort, were seen greeting guests and chaperoning dignitaries at Tuesday's reception.

They are her close friends Sarah Troughton, Jane von Westenholz and Fiona, the Marchioness of Lansdowne, Lady Katharine Brooke, Baroness Carlyn Chisholm and Lady Sarah Keswick.

At the event, the Queen Consort said that "heinous crimes" committed against women and girls must end, and she was joined by Ukraine's First Lady.

She told guests, who included survivors of violence: "You are also evidence that we can have hope as we head towards our goal of ending violence against women and girls.

"Armed with that hope, let us press on. Let us not lose this precious opportunity to speak up and to galvanise action that will see the end of these heinous crimes forever.

"With determination and courage, we will succeed."

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