Buckingham Palace banned “colored immigrants or foreigners” from serving in office roles for the British royal family until at least the late 1960s, a new report says. The Guardian, citing documents it obtained from the U.K.’s National Archives, reported Wednesday that Queen Elizabeth’s chief financial manager informed civil servants in 1968 that “it was not, in fact, the practice to appoint coloured immigrants or foreigners” to clerical roles in the royal household. However, they were permitted to work as domestic servants.
The Guardian said it contacted Buckingham Palace for a response but it refused to discuss the ban or when or why ended. Buckingham Palace said its records indicate that people from ethnic minority backgrounds were employed in the 1990s. However, before the 1990s, it did not keep records on the racial backgrounds of employees, it said.
The documents unearthed by the Guardian also show that palace aides in the 1970s negotiated with government officials to exempt the royal household from laws prohibiting discriminatory hiring practices on the basis of race and sex. “The exemption has made it impossible for women or people from ethnic minorities working for her household to complain to the courts if they believe they have been discriminated against,” the Guardian wrote.
In a response, Buckingham Palace told The Guardian that it has a separate process for hearing complaints related to discrimination although it did not explain what the process entails.
A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace told Insider that the royal household follows provisions of the Equality Act, which protects people from discrimination in the workplace and society as a whole.
“Claims based on a second hand account of conversations from over 50 years ago should not be used to draw or infer conclusions about modern day events or operations,” a palace spokesperson said in a statement sent to Insider. “The principles of Crown Application and Crown Consent are long established and widely known.”
“The Royal Household and the Sovereign comply with the provisions of the Equality Act, in principle and in practise. This is reflected in the diversity, inclusion and dignity at work policies, procedures and practises within the Royal Household,” the statement said. “Any complaints that might be raised under the Act follow a formal process that provides a means of hearing and remedying any complaint.”
The Queen has over the years faced criticism for turning a blind eye to its racist past. The Queen is yet to acknowledge the royal family’s involvement in Britain’s slave trade. Last year, the royal family was also silent about the Black Lives Matter protests that came in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.
About three months ago, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle engaged in an extraordinary interview with Oprah Winfrey where they spoke about their lives inside the palace, including making bombshell revelations about racism within the royal family.
Meghan claimed that while she was pregnant with Archie, a member of the royal family had a conversation with Harry about Archie’s skin color. “In those months when I was pregnant, all around this same time, so we have in tandem the conversation of, ‘You won’t be given security, not gonna be given a title’ and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”
Days after the Oprah interview, Prince William defended the royal family against the racist claims. “We are not a racist family,” he told a reporter.
In March, The Sunday Times reported that the palace is planning to appoint a diversity officer. “Certainly the idea of someone to spearhead this work and look at diversity and inclusion across the three households is something that has to be considered,” a source told PEOPLE. “It is too early, however, for any firm plans to be announced. We are listening and learning to get this right.”