Queen’s assistants banned ‘colored immigrants or foreigners’ from royal household posts until late 1960s, National Archives documents reveal
- Buckingham Palace banned ‘colored immigrants or foreigners’ from administrative positions until at least the late 1960s – but they could work as domestic servants
- Revelations were detailed in documents discovered in the UK National Archives
- Palace said it didn’t keep records of employees’ racial backgrounds before the 1990s
Buckingham Palace banned ethnic minorities from working in office positions until at least the late 1960s, documents unearthed reveal.
Despite the ecclesiastical ban, ‘colored immigrants or foreigners’ were allowed to work as domestic servants in the royal household.
The revelations appeared in written memos after discussions between government and palace officials and were discovered at the National Archives during an investigation by the guard.
The documents state that it was not the “practice” that ethnic minorities were appointed to administrative positions, but that “colorful applicants” were “freely eligible” for domestic positions.
The papers also show how the Queen’s courtiers negotiated clauses exempting palace workers from laws dealing with discrimination based on race and sex.
This means that women and ethnic minorities working in the royal family are not legally protected if they feel they are being discriminated against because of their race or gender.
Any complaints would instead be referred to the Home Secretary rather than the courts.
Obviously, these controversial clauses remain in effect to this day.
In the 1960s, the Queen’s courtiers negotiated clauses that exempted palace workers from racial and gender discrimination laws.
The revelations came after documents from the National Archives were examined as part of The Guardian’s investigation into the Queen’s consent.
The procedure will allow the monarch to review laws that affect her, as the bills are still pending.
The Queen’s consent has been used for bills ranging from social security issues to the Article 50 law allowing Britain to leave the EU.
The exposed papers show a discussion between an Home Office official, TG Weiler, and palace officials, including Lord Tryon, the custodian of the stock exchange, who was responsible for managing the Queen’s private finances.
According to summarized notes from the talks in February 1968, the Queen’s courtiers said staff fell into three different categories: senior posts, administrative and civil service posts, and “ordinary household posts.”
The documents state that it was not the ‘practice’ for ethnic minorities to be appointed to official positions.
The palace exemption from the laws means that women and ethnic minorities working in the royal household are not protected by the law if they feel they have been discriminated against because of their race or gender
The archival notes read: ‘(a) senior posts, which were not filled by advertisements or by an overt nomination system and which would presumably be accepted as outside the scope of the bill; (b) administrative and other offices, for which it was in fact not customary to appoint immigrants of color or foreigners; and c) ordinary domestic functions for which colored people were freely eligible, but which would in any case be covered by the proposed general housework exemption.’
The notes were recorded prior to the introduction of a series of racial and sexual equality laws designed to eliminate discrimination.
The documents from the National Archives suggest that the royal family may have used the queen’s consent for the bill.
It’s unclear when the practice ended, but Buckingham Palace said it didn’t keep records of employees’ racial backgrounds before the 1990s.
Palace officials also stressed that a number of ethnic minority workers were employed during that decade.
In a statement published in The Guardian, Buckingham Palace also did not dispute that the Queen was exempt from the racial and sexual equality laws.
Buckingham Palace has been approached by Mail Online for comment.
What is the Queen’s consent?
The queen’s consent is a procedure whereby the government must ask the monarch for permission to debate laws that affect her.
It happens during the drafting of a bill that is currently under consideration by the parliament and which is usually declared in the parliament in the second or third reading stage.
There are two main areas where it is used:
1. On matters affecting the royal prerogative (the powers of the state), such as the ability to declare war, issue tributes or passports;
2. When a law affects the possessions of the crown, such as the royal palaces or hereditary income, including the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall, as well as personal property or personal ‘interests’ of the crown.
Parliamentary jurists would rule that a bill requires such consent, and a minister would write to the Queen asking for permission from Parliament to debate it.
A copy of the bill will be sent to the Queen’s private lawyers, who have 14 days to study it and advise her.
If the Queen gives her consent, Parliament can debate the legislation and the process is formally referred to in Hansard, the Record of Parliamentary Debates.
But if the Queen agrees, the bill cannot go through and parliament cannot actually debate it. But in practice this will probably never happen.
A spokesperson for the Queen said of the consent procedure: “The Queen’s consent is a parliamentary process, where the role of sovereign is purely formal.
‘Permission is always granted by the monarch at the request of the government. Any claim that the sovereign has blocked legislation is simply false.”
Consent is also different from Royal Assent, which is given after a bill is passed by both Houses of Parliament and needs to be converted into law. Consent is required for all legislation.
The last time it was withheld was by Queen Anne for the Scottish Militia Bill 1708, who did not issue it on the advice of ministers for fear the proposed militia would “be disloyal”.