Shades of Blue was a short-lived serial drama about crooked police officers in which one character had a saying: “The proof is in the paperwork.” It didn’t matter what really happened on a given day, in other words—it only mattered what was put on the record. Well, the paperwork has come through for the inhabitants of Buckingham Palace. A new report from The Guardian reveals a document showing a ban as late as the 1960s by the Queen’s courtiers on hiring “colored immigrants or foreigners” in clerical roles, though they were allowed to be hired as domestics. This would explain why there isn’t a single person of color on The Crown, which is starting to feel less like a hyperbolic drama and more like a documentary with every passing interview.
Specifically, as part of their ongoing investigations into the royal family, the Guardian uncovered a document in the National Archives from 1968, summarizing discussions between a civil servant for the elected government and Lord Tryon, the keeper of the privy purse—who handles the Queen’s finances—over proposed expansions to the UK’s racial discrimination laws. According to the Guardian (emphasis mine):
Tryon, he wrote, had informed them Buckingham Palace was prepared to comply with the proposed law, but only if it enjoyed similar exemptions to those provided to the diplomatic service, which could reject job applicants who had been resident in the UK for less than five years.
According to Weiler, Tryon considered staff in the Queen’s household to fall into one of three types of roles: “(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.”
It’s unclear when the palace abandoned this “practice”; “Buckingham Palace refused to answer questions about the ban and when it was revoked,” simply insisting that there is a record of “people from ethnic minority backgrounds being employed in the 1990s,” the Guardian noted.
What’s more, the Guardian also discovered policies that “exempt the Queen and her household from laws that prevent race and sex discrimination,” which are still in effect to this day. The Queen has apparently been exempt since the UK began passing these laws, around the 1970s, meaning that women and people of color who have been employed during her reign have never been able to file a complaint about discrimination in the workplace in UK courts. However, the Palace told the Guardian that it had its own special method of hearing complaints from employees, which it was not willing to share with the outlet. Perhaps Meghan Markle might know something about it and give her good friend Oprah a call to discuss.