A Buckingham Palace household member has apologised and resigned over “unacceptable comments” made to a black British guest at a reception hosted by the Queen Consort.
Ngozi Fulani, the founder of a charity supporting victims of domestic abuse, says she was repeatedly asked by a royal aide where she was “really from”.
She was asked at the Buckingham Palace event where she was from in Africa.
The palace said it was taking the incident “extremely seriously”.
An eyewitness to the conversation, Mandu Reid, backed the account and told the BBC the questions put to Ms Fulani were “offensive, racist and unwelcoming”.
Ms Reid says she had a “sense of incredulity” about the exchange with a member of the Royal Household, in which Ms Fulani was “interrogated” about where she was from – even though she had explained she was born and lived in the UK.
Ms Fulani is the founder of the London-based charity Sistah Space, which supports black women who have faced domestic and sexual abuse.
Along with 300 guests, she had been invited to a high-profile reception at the Palace on Tuesday, where the Queen Consort, Camilla, had warned of a “global pandemic of violence against women”.
But after the event, Ms Fulani described her conversation on Twitter, where she was challenged by a royal aide to explain where she was from.
She recounted how she said: “We’re based in Hackney,” and the aide replied: “No, what part of Africa are you from?”
She said: “I don’t know, they didn’t leave any records”, and the Palace member responded: “Well you must know where you’re from, I spent time in France. Where are you from?”
“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?”
Also part of the conversation was Ms Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party.
She said that members of the Royal Household were circulating at the reception and making “chit chat” – but she said it became a “really unpleasant interaction”, when despite Ms Fulani’s replies there was an insistent questioning about her background.
Ms Reid said they were “stunned into silence” afterwards and says that Ms Fulani should receive an apology and those working for the palace should receive training.
Both Ms Reid and Sistah Space have decided not to name the royal aide believed to be involved.
In response, Buckingham Palace said: “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.”