LONDON – British Queen Elizabeth II’s statement on explosive racism claims by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle dominated British media on Wednesday, with some saying she needed to give a stronger response.
Several tabloids ran front-page headlines picking up on the 94-year-old monarch’s much-anticipated response, issued late Tuesday afternoon.
“We will always love you,” wrote The Mirror, while Metro went with “Our royal sadness”.
The Sun, however, used a quote of the Queen’s that appeared to cast doubt on Meghan and Harry’s account: “Recollections may vary”.
In an interview with US chat show host Oprah Winfrey, Meghan and Harry said an unnamed royal asked how dark their baby’s skin would be. Meghan also suggested there were moves to deny their son Archie privileges because he is mixed-race.
The queen’s statement said the family was “saddened” and that “the issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning”.
It said that “some recollections may vary,” but the claims “are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”
The statement “sought to draw a line under damaging racism claims,” wrote The Guardian, a leftwing broadsheet.
The Independent, a newspaper that gives little coverage to royal matters, called it a “rare intervention” from a monarch who “has historically kept quiet on matters of controversy”.
Former royal correspondent Peter Hunt told BBC radio the 61-word statement was “the bare minimum” at a time when the royals found themselves in an “enormous hole”.
“In my judgement, it was too little and it was too late,” he said.
There were varying interpretations of what exactly the queen meant by “recollections may vary”.
“It could refer to remarks over Archie’s skin colour, or, perhaps, the fact the couple believed protocol was to be changed to deny their son the automatic title of prince when Charles accedes the throne,” wrote The Guardian.
Most assumed it referred to the racism claim.
The Times, a rightwing broadsheet, called this “a sign that the Palace will refuse to let everything the couple said go unchallenged”.
In a commentary piece, the newspaper also said the claims — and the furore it has caused — was “a soft-power disaster for Britain”, and dragged the royal family in to the US “culture war”.
The Telegraph, another conservative broadsheet, said the statement “suggests the individual has been identified”, amid fevered speculation about the possible culprit.
But it said the public is unlikely to learn more as this was “expected to be Her Majesty’s final word on the matter”.