Queen Camilla’s ‘Awkward’ Interaction With Small Child Sparks Race Debate

A video clip of Queen Camilla’s interaction with a young Black person sparked an online race debate on Thursday, as members of the royal family face increased scrutiny over allegations of racism made in recent years.

Camilla took part in an engagement visiting the Barnardo’s Nursery in Bow to distribute a number of Paddington Bear stuffed animals that were left in tribute to Queen Elizabeth II following her death in September.

The new Queen Consort, who has been patron of Barnardo’s since 2016, organized having the bears professionally cleaned and donated to the charity’s vulnerable children. That process began on Thursday.

Queen Camilla photographed distributing Paddington Bear stuffed animals at the Barnardo’s Nursery in Bow, London, November 24, 2022. A video clip has sparked an online debate on race.
Arthur Edwards – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Press footage captured from the event shows Camilla meeting the charity’s pre-schoolers. One particular exchange between the royal and a young Black child has sparked comment, with some questioning whether the “awkward” encounter had anything to do with the child’s skin color.

In the clip, widely shared on Twitter, Camilla is shown to pick up the young girl’s arm by the sleeve of her shirt rather than her wrist.

“Look at Camilla trying her hardest not to touch a Black baby,” wrote one user. “Stop letting them do this to your children for pr. #RacistRoyalFamily”

“Camilla struggles to touch a Black child (and the kids look clearly uncomfortable around her),” wrote another. “The real face of the British monarchy : PR stunts and photo ops.”

An earlier clip that has since been deleted was shared by author and activist Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, who tweeted: “The way Camilla holds this child’s hand is very disturbing. I’ve a strong itch to slap her hand right off. What the hell did she think she was doing to this black child?”

The story appeared to develop as further footage of the exchange was shared, showing the royal complimenting the child on her “pretty” bracelet, which could account for her gesture with the sleeve.

One Twitter user who had shared the earlier video deleted it and posted a clarification, stating that although it may not have been as bad as first perceived, it was still an awkward moment.

“I have removed the shorter video clip to look at this slightly longer one,” they wrote. “Still an awkward moment for Camilla but not as disturbing as I initially thought. At the risk of appearing stilted, she tried not to intimidate.”

In response to the video, some users defended the royal, with one posting a response reading: “You’re projecting. She doesn’t look uncomfortable with the child at all. I’m not a fan of Camilla but you’re reading things that aren’t there.”

“Many of the Barnardo’s children have already, heartbreakingly, suffered abuse, trauma and loss around adults,” said another. “Camilla did 100% the right thing – she was tentative and gave the child autonomy in their contact. Eventually she DID get the little hand. Bravo Camilla, you did well.”

When contacted by Newsweek Buckingham Palace declined to comment.

Queen Camilla Meets Children At Bernardo's Charity
Queen Camilla photographed with a child at the Barnardo’s nursery in Bow, London, November 24, 2022. There is a race debate surrounding the royals.
Arthur Edwards – WPA Pool/Getty Images

This is not the first time that Camilla has been scrutinized over race. In 2021, Meghan Markle spoke out about the racism she faced from the British media while a working member of the royal family during her landmark interview with Oprah Winfrey.

While discussing race with the TV host, the duchess also revealed that an unnamed member of the royal family had made racially insensitive comments about the potential skin color of her future children with Prince Harry, an incident the prince himself referred to later in the interview.

The claim brought about widespread condemnation of the royals and in the following days Prince William gave a rare response to a journalist who asked if the royal family was racist. “We’re very much not a racist family,” was his statement.

The allegations led many to speculate that Camilla was the unnamed royal behind the comment.

In 2022, author Tom Bower wrote in his biography Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the War Between the Windsors that the comments could indeed have stemmed from the duchess.

“According to Harry, someone speculated about what his future child would ‘look like,'” he wrote of the allegations repeated to Winfrey.

“In one version, Camilla remarked, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if your child had ginger Afro hair?’ Harry laughed. Subsequently, Meghan’s reaction to that conversation turned Harry’s amusement into fury.”

At the time, Clarence House, which handled the then-duchess’ communications, declined to make any comment about the book.

William and Kate Caribbean Tour Photo Controversy
Prince William and Kate Middleton photographed meeting well-wishers in Jamaica on March 22, 2022. The couple faced backlash over the poorly chosen photo opportunity.
Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage

Since the allegations made by Harry and Meghan, the royals have faced increased scrutiny over their interactions with Black people. Kate Middleton and Prince William faced a wave of backlash in March after they were photographed shaking hands with members of the public during their Caribbean tour through a chain link fence.

King Charles too, recently faced a similar PR storm after video footage appeared to show him neglecting to shake hands with a black member of the crowd waiting to see Queen Elizabeth II lying in state.

Do you have a question about King Charles III, William and Kate, Meghan and Harry or their family that you would like our experienced royal correspondents to answer? Email royals@newsweek.com. We’d love to hear from you.

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