She was the ultimate insider, one of the late Queen’s intimate friends and so close to King Charles that he made her godmother to Prince William.
So when, one year ago today, Lady Susan Hussey was engulfed in a racism row that forced her to resign, it sent shockwaves through the royal family.
Lady Susan, 84, announced her withdrawal from royal duties on December 1, 2022, after charity campaigner Ngozi Fulani accused her of racially insulting her at a Buckingham Palace reception.
The furore occurred when the aristocrat, who is one of Queen Camilla’s closest aides, repeatedly asked Ms Fulani, the British-born director of the east London charity Sistah Space, where she was ‘really from’.
Lady Susan, who had served the late Queen for six decades, stepped down from her honorary role ‘with immediate effect’ amid a furious outcry this time last year
Ngozi Fulani, the British-born founder of the charity Sistah Space, expressed shock at her treatment by Lady Susan Hussey
Ms Fulani said she had been ‘insulted’ during the reception at Buckingham Palace to raise awareness of violence against women and girls
The Royal Family, still reeling from accusations of racism by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex the previous year, were further rocked when Ms Fulani took to X (Twitter) to detail her treatment by Lady Susan, such a fixture at Buckingham Palace that she was dubbed, ‘Number One Head Girl’.
‘Mixed feelings about yesterday’s visit to Buckingham Palace,’ posted Ms Fulani on X, following the November 30 reception.
‘10 mins after arriving, a member of staff, Lady SH, approached me, moved my hair to see my name badge. The conversation below took place. The rest of the event is a blur.’
In Ms Fulani’s version of events, it started with the royal aide asking her where she was from. She replied, ‘Sistah Space.’
Lady Susan followed up with, ‘No, where do you come from?’ to which Ms Fulani replied, ‘we’re based in Hackney’.
According to Ms Fulani, Lady Susan then asked, ‘No, what part of Africa are you from?’ Ms Fulani met this query with, ‘I don’t know, they didn’t leave any records.’
Lady Susan, widow of the famed BBC chairman Marmaduke Hussey, then replied, ‘Well, you must know where you’re from,”,
Ms Fulani, told her ‘here, the UK’, but suggested that Lady Susan continued to press the point asking, ‘No, but where do you really come from, where do your people come from?’
Ms Fulani protested, ‘”My people’ lady, what is this?”, to which Lady Susan countered, “Oh I can see I am going to have a challenge getting you to say where you’re from. Where did you first come here?”‘
Ms Fulani replied that she’s a British national and that her parents came here in the 1950s.
After sharing this interaction on X, another writer commented: ‘I hope she was reported.’
Fulani replied, ‘There was nobody to report it to. I couldn’t report it to the Queen Consort, plus it was such a shock to me and the other 2 women, that we were stunned to temporary silence. I just stood at the edge of the room, smiled & engaged briefly with who spoke to me until I could leave.’
We have never heard Lady Susan’s account of the exchange.
Her response, however, was swift – after 60 years of service to Queen Elizabeth, she resigned from her position in Queen Camilla’s household with ‘immediate effect’.
The row occurred in the wake of a review into diversity at Buckingham palace, Clarence house and Kensington Palace.
And the veteran lady-in-waiting’s speedy departure was a clear sign of a new, more woke era, with Prince William quickly issuing a statement that it was ‘really disappointing’ to hear what had happened and that ‘racism has no place in our society’.
Lady Susan met with Ms Fulani in December (pictured) and offered her ‘sincere apologies’ for her comments
Lady Susan served the late Queen without incident for more than 60 years. Pictured: With the Royal Family on the day of Prince William’s confirmation at Windsor Castle
The late Queen with her ‘Head Girl’ Lady Susan in the Market Square in Aylesbury in 2002
Queen Elizabeth II accompanied by her Lady-in-Waiting Lady Susan Hussey after attending the Gold Service Scholarship awards ceremony at Claridge’s in 2016
The then Prince and Princess of Wales with their eldest son Prince William at his christening where Lady Susan was chosen to be his Godmother
Ms Fulani defended speaking out about the event, telling The Independent that it was ‘bigger than one individual. It’s institutional racism’.
‘I was in shock after it happened and anybody who knows me knows I don’t take this kind of nonsense,” she said.
However, Lady Susan was quick to make amends, sitting down with Ms Fulani just two weeks later to offer her ‘sincere apologies’ for her comments.
After the December 16 meeting, Buckingham Palace and Fulani issued a joint statement saying the meeting was ‘filled with warmth and understanding‘.
The statement continued: ‘Lady Susan has pledged to deepen her awareness of the sensitivities involved and is grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the issues in this area.’
‘Both Ms Fulani and Lady Susan ask now that they be left in peace to rebuild their lives in the wake of an immensely distressing period for them both.
‘They hope that their example shows a path to resolution can be found with kindness, cooperation and the condemnation of discrimination wherever it takes root.’
Few could have foreseen that Lady Susan’s long and distinguished royal career ending in such an ignominious fashion, and her gaffe surprised many who know her well.
One friend suggested that the aide’s hearing was to blame. ‘Like many people of her age, Lady Susan is rather hard of hearing. It’s likely that her deafness contributed to the problems she had that day.’
At the time, it was believed that senior royals hoped Lady Susan would return to her post and it seems that she is now back in The Firm’s good books.
In February just three months after the racism scandal, Lady Susan stood in for Princess Anne at a memorial service for her mother’s friend Dame Frances Campbell-Preston.
‘Lady Susan was formally asked to represent the Princess Royal at the service,’ a family friend told The Daily Mail. ‘She was more than happy to do so. Her official position was recorded in the order of service. It’s great to see her back in the royal fold.’
Queen Camilla with Lady Susan Hussey (left) at the State Opening of Parliament in 2019
Lady Susan Hussey chatted to King Charles at Royal Ascot earlier this year in June
Lady Susan Hussey arrives to attend a church service with King Charles and the Princess Royal at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham in January
And at Royal Ascot in June, she enjoyed a friendly exchange with the King in the Royal Box on Ladies Day – following her attendance at the Coronation at Westminster Abbey in May.
It’s no surprise that Lady Susan and King Charles are old friends as she’s been a fixture in the Royal Family since 1960, when she was employed to help answer letters addressed to the Royal household.
As an expert on the inner workings of royal life and its conventions, she is thought to be one of the key figures who showed Princess Diana the ropes when she became engaged to Charles – and she has been portrayed by the late actress Haydn Gwynne in series five of The Crown.