Queen’s aides banned ‘coloured immigrants or foreigners’ from serving in office roles in royal household until late 1960s, documents from National Archives reveal
- Buckingham Palace banned ‘coloured immigrants or foreigners’ from clerical roles until at least the late 1960s – but they could work as domestic servants
- Revelations were detailed in papers discovered at Britain’s National Archives
- Palace said pre 1990s it did not keep records on employees’ racial backgrounds
Buckingham Palace banned ethnic minorities from working in office roles until at least the late 1960s, unearthed papers reveal.
Despite the clerical ban, ‘coloured immigrants or foreigners’ were able to work in the royal household as domestic staff.
The revealations appeared in written memos following discussions between government and Palace officials and were uncovered at the National Archies during an investigation by The Guardian.
The documents state that it was not the ‘practice’ for ethnic minorities to be appointed to clerical roles but that ‘coloured applicants’ were ‘freely considered’ for domestic posts.
The papers also show how the Queen’s courtiers negotiated clauses that exempt Palace workers from race and sex discrimination laws as the government was attempting to bring in new legislation to prevent discrimnation.
This means women and ethnic minorities working in the royal household were not protected by law if they felt they were discriminated against because of their race or gender.
Any complaints would instead be referred to the home secretary instead of to the courts. It is understood that these controversial clauses remain in place to this day.
The Queen’s courtiers negotiated clauses that exempt Palace workers from race and sex discrimination laws in the 1960s, with documents unearthed from the National Archives showing ‘coloured immigrants or foreigners’ were banned from working in Palace office roles
The revealations were made after documents from the National Archives were examined as part of The Guardian’s investigation into Queen’s Consent.
The procedure allows the monarch to view laws that affect her as bills are in the process of going through partliament.
Queen’s Consent has been used on Bills ranging from social security issues to the Article 50 law allowing Britain to leave EU.
The uncovered papers show a discussion between a Home Office civil servant, TG Weiler, and Palace officials, including Lord Tryon, the keeper of the privy purse, who was responsible for managing the Queen’s private finances.
According to summarised notes from the discussions in February 1968, the Queen’s courtiers said the staff fell into three different categories; senior posts, clerical and office posts and ‘ordinary domestic posts’.
The documents state that it was not the ‘practice’ for people from ethnic minorities to be appointed to the office roles.
The Palace exemption from the laws means women and ethnic minorities working in the royal household were not protected by law if they feel they have been discriminated against because of their race or gender
The archive notes read: ‘(a) senior posts, which were not filled by advertising or by any overt system of appointment and which would presumably be accepted as outside the scope of the bill; (b) clerical and other office posts, to which it was not, in fact, the practice to appoint coloured immigrants or foreigners; and (c) ordinary domestic posts for which coloured applicants were freely considered, but which would in any event be covered by the proposed general exemption for domestic employment.’
The notes were recorded ahead of the introduction of a series of racial and sexual equality laws that were designed to eliminate discrimination.
The National Archive documents suggest the royal household may have used Queen’s Consent on the bill.
It is unclear when the practice ended, but Buckingham Palace said that it did not keep records on the racial backgrounds of employees before the 1990s.
Palace officials also higlighted that there were a number of employees from ethnic minorities employed during that decade.
In a statement published in The Guardian, Buckingham Palace also did not dispute that the Queen had been exempted from the racial and sexual equality laws.
Buckingham Palace has been contacted by Mail Online for comment.
What is Queen’s Consent?
Queen’s Consent is a procedure by which the government is required to ask the monarch for permission to debate laws that affect her.
It happens during the drafting of a bill that is in the process of going through parliament, and is declared in parliament usually at the second or third reading stage.
There are two main areas where it is used:
1. On matters that affect the Royal prerogative (the powers of state), such as the ability to declare war, granting of honours or issuing passports;
2. When a law affects the assets of the crown, such as the royal palaces or hereditary revenues, including the Duchy of Lancaster or Duchy of Cornwall, as well as personal property or personal ‘interests’ of the Crown.
Parliamentary lawyers would decide that a bill requires such consent, and a government minister would write to the Queen to request permission for parliament to debate it.
A copy of the bill is sent to the Queen’s private lawyers, who have 14 days to consider it and to advise her.
If the Queen grants her consent, parliament can debate the legislation and the process is formally signified in Hansard, the record of parliamentary debates.
But if the Queen withheld consent, then the bill cannot proceed and parliament is in effect banned from debating it. But in practice this is unlikely to ever happen.
A spokesman for the Queen said of the Consent procedure: ‘Queen’s consent is a parliamentary process, with the role of sovereign purely formal.
‘Consent is always granted by the monarch where requested by government. Any assertion that the sovereign has blocked legislation is simply incorrect.’
Consent is also different to Royal Assent, which is given after a bill passed through both Houses of Parliament and must be made into law. Assent is needed for all legislation.
The last time it was withheld was by Queen Anne for the Scottish Militia Bill 1708, who did not give it on the advice of ministers for fear that the proposed militia ‘would be disloyal’.