'Coloured immigrants' and foreigners blocked from some royal household roles in 1960s - report

It's unclear when the practice ended.
It's unclear when the practice ended. Photo credit: Reuters.

A new report reveals it "was not practice" for "coloured immigrants or foreigners" to be employed in some roles in the Queen's royal household until at least the late 1960s. 

The Guardian has discovered documents from February 1968 written by British Home Office civil servant TG Weiler summarising discussions with Lord Tyron, the man responsible for the Queen's finances, and other royal courtiers. 

According to the report, Weiler wrote that Lord Tyron believed staff in the Queen's household fell into one of three types - senior posts, clerical and other office posts, and ordinary domestic posts.

In regards to clerical posts, it's written that "it was not, in fact, practice to appoint coloured immigrants or foreigners", but for the ordinary domestic posts "coloured applicants were freely considered".

It's unclear when this ended, but Buckingham Palace says people from ethnic minority backgrounds were employed in the 1990s. It doesn't have records about ethnicity from before then.

The Guardian reports that in the 1960s, the government looked to introduce legislation making it illegal to refuse to employ someone on the grounds of race or ethnicity. The Queen, the British media outlet says, has been personally exempted from those laws since the 1970s, meaning ethnic minorities in her household cannot complain to the courts if they believe they have been discriminated against.

"In a statement, Buckingham Palace did not dispute that the Queen had been exempted from the laws, adding that it had a separate process for hearing complaints related to discrimination," the Guardian says. "The palace did not respond when asked what this process consists of."

As the legislation was being developed, the issue of Queen's consent emerged. This is a mechanism through which the monarch gives Parliament permission to debate any laws that may affect her and her interests.

The Guardian reports the Home Office didn't believe it should request the Queen's consent for the legislation to be debated in parliament until her "advisers were satisfied it could not be enforced against her in the courts". 

Lord Tyron was "concerned" the proposed law would make it possible to criticise the royal household, Weiler said. 

According to Weiler, Lord Tyron said Buckingham Palace would agree with the proposed law, but only if "it enjoyed similar exemptions to those provided to the diplomatic service, which could reject job applicants who had been resident in the UK for less than five years".

After becoming satisfied with the law, it was agreed that the Queen's consent could be sought. 

The Guardian says this shows "how the Queen's consent procedure was used to secretly influence the formation of the draft race relations legislation".

"The phrasing of the documents is highly significant, because it suggests that Callaghan and the Home Office officials believed it might not be possible to obtain the Queen's consent for parliament to debate the racial equality law unless the monarch was assured of her exemption."

Any complaints from within the Queen's household were sent to the Home Secretary rather than the courts.

The Guardian reports the Buckingham Palace spokesperson as saying: "The royal household and the sovereign comply with the provisions of the Equality Act, in principle and in practice. This is reflected in the diversity, inclusion and dignity at work policies, procedures and practices within the royal household.

"Any complaints that might be raised under the act follow a formal process that provides a means of hearing and remedying any complaint." 

The palace did not respond when asked if the monarch was subject to this act in law.

The new report comes after the Queen's grandson's mixed-race wife, Meghan Markle, this year accused someone within the royal family of voicing concern about her son's skin colour. The allegation raised concerns of racism within the monarchy. Buckingham Palace said the issue would be addressed privately