In a report published in the British newspaper “The Guardian” , writer Richard Stokes said that as a teenager in 1986, Prince Charles expressed his “grave concern” about potential discrimination and the lack of blacks in the king’s military escorts.
Seeing this, Stokes’ father, Brian, immediately encouraged him to apply to join the elite guard brigade as his black adopted son.
At the time, Stokes had just finished high school. Since he had a long-term interest in the army and enrolled in army cadets at Bristol; Joining the regular army seemed like a good career choice. Little did he know at the time that the regiment he would be a part of had never seen a black person join his ranks. Stokes stated that throughout his childhood he faced racism in many forms, with his father doing his best to prepare him for the situations he might encounter; However, he was not prepared for what the Guards had in store for him when he entered the gates of the then Guards Training Center in Pirbright, Surrey, in September 1986.
On the first day of his training, Stokes was “welcomed” by racist slurs, interrogations, death threats and regular visitors to his barracks room who stared, screamed and jeered at the black scene in front of them. The racist behavior did not stop; Stokes was ostracized, cigarettes extinguished in his food, bananas thrown at him, and hate messages, including a bullet with his name on it. It should be noted that the first six months of his work were hell.
Despite this, Stokes did not falter. And in 1988 his first day — grenade throwers at a guards party — was a national news story. Eventually, Stokes spent another two years in the service of the Queen and the royal family, guarding residences including Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Clarence House.
Stokes added that after all the racist abuse he was subjected to while guarding the royal family; He was heartbroken when he read this week that there was a ban within the palace itself on ethnic minority employees. By now, everyone knows that in 1968 – and perhaps many years later – it was “not acceptable practice to appoint immigrants of color or foreigners” to religious positions in the royal family, according to the Queen’s chief financial officer at the time.
Stokes noted that the news that the palace had a policy of racial discrimination reinforced his disappointment with the lack of progress in eliminating racism in society. Even today, the royal family can help bring about changes in attitudes by taking action, as Prince Charles did in 1986. Overall, the palace’s high profile in British society means that it can set an example in diversity and inclusion and be transparent about its own policies.
The result of Charles’ moral leadership was that Stokes was able to break a long-standing tradition of “whites only” and inspire other ethnic minorities to join the guard. And the next generation of royals may be able to bond more closely with the younger British people, and show their alignment with the anti-racist sentiments that have been so strongly expressed throughout 2020.
Stokes explained that he continued in his official duties until he resigned from the Grenadier in 1990. His father tried to persuade him to change his mind, but he was so attached to his decision that his father wrote several times to Prince Charles to see if he could persuade him to change his decision. Indeed, Stokes was not willing to continue to tolerate more racism, especially as he intended to rise in rank. And what he endured during the four years he served with the Grenadier Guard was something no one of any background should have experienced, especially when they were committed to serving the Queen and the country.