Relations between the English Royal Family and the Commonwealth have been severely damaged following claims of racism by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the Queen has been warned.
Senior figures across the Commonwealth say the explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which the couple revealed that concern had been expressed by a member of the family over the colour of their as yet unborn son Archie, threatened to create an unbridgeable rift.
Nowhere has the impact been felt more keenly than on the African continent, where the Duke and Duchess were greeted so enthusiastically during their tour of South Africa in 2019.
Mohammed Groenewald, a Muslim community leader who showed the couple around a mosque in Cape Town, said the interview brought back unwelcome memories of “British colonial racism”, adding: “It comes out very clearly”.
At one stage the Sussexes eleven aired the possibility they might make a home in Africa and the Duchess’s alleged treatment at the hands of the palace officials and members of the family has led to shock and anger.
In Uganda, Nicholas Sengoba, a columnist with the Daily Monitor, said the claim of racist attitudes at the heart of the Royal family “opens our eyes further” on the merits of the Commonwealth and the “unresolved issues” relating to the abuses of colonialism. Mr Sengoba said it was not questionable whether the heads of Commonwealth countries should still be “proud to eat dinner” with members of the British royal family.
In Kenya one Nairobi resident, Syliva Wangari, said she felt let down by the claims, pointing out that the country was where the young Princess Elizabeth had been visiting in 1952 when she was told of the death of her father.
“We feel very angry seeing our fellow African sister being harassed because she is Black,” said Ms Wangari. “When Queen Elizabeth was here and her father passed away while she was in Kenya, an African country we did not show her any racism.
Similar views are being voiced in Caribbean countries, particularly in Barbados, which plans to become a republic by November 2021.
Guy Hewitt, a former Barbadian high commissioner to the UK, said the interview “underscores and affirms that Barbados did make the right decision to have a native born citizen as head of state”.
He added: “Young people are responding and really putting support behind Harry and Meghan because any outcry, especially by a black woman, must be given credibility and support.”
The impact is also being felt in those countries previously regarded as still wedded to having the Queen as their head of state, such as Australia, which voted against a republic in 1999.
Malcolm Turnbull, the former Australian Prime Minister and long-standing republican, said the repercussions would see a renewed move for the country to cut its ties with the British monarchy.
He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: “After the end of the Queen’s reign, that is the time for us to say: ‘OK, we’ve passed that watershed. Do we really want to have whoever happens to be the head of state, the king or queen of the U.K., automatically our head of state?”
But Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada – where the Sussexes lived briefly before moving to Los Angeles – said the legacy of colonialism and issues of racism were not in themselves reasons to cut centuries old ties.
“The answer is not to suddenly toss out all the institutions and start over,” Mr Trudeau said.
“I wish all the members of the royal family all the best, but my focus is getting through this pandemic.”
Palace officials declined to comment, but repeated the Queen’s statement, following the interview, that “the issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning” and “are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately”.