Duke and Duchess of Sussex to receive human rights award after 'heroic stand' against royal 'racism'

Duke and Duchess of Sussex - Karwai Tang/WireImage
Duke and Duchess of Sussex - Karwai Tang/WireImage

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be honoured with a prestigious human rights award after taking a stand against “structural racism” within the monarchy, it has emerged.

The couple will receive the Ripple of Hope award on Dec 6 at a glittering gala ceremony that honours “exemplary leaders” who have demonstrated “an unwavering commitment” to social change.

The annual event is organised by the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights foundation, named after former president John F Kennedy’s younger brother, who was assassinated in 1968.

Challenging the royal ‘power structure’

It is hosted by John F Ken­nedy’s niece, Kerry Kennedy, who said the Duke and Duchess will receive the award after having the courage to challenge the Royal family’s “power structure”.

She said the couple had been “heroic” by standing up against such an ancient institution.

The Sussexes are expected to attend the ceremony, with other award recipients to include Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president.

Asked her opinion about the criticism the couple have received for alleging that a member of the Royal family had been racist, Ms Kennedy told Spanish online news website El Confidencial that her father had spoken about the problems in getting people to talk about racial justice during a visit to South Africa in 1966.

“He also spoke of moral courage, saying that few would have the courage to question their colleagues, family and community about the power structure they maintained,” she said.

“And this is what Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have done.”

‘Told them what they were doing wrong’

Ms Kennedy, a lawyer and human rights activist, added: “They went to the oldest institution in UK history and told them what they were doing wrong, that they couldn’t have structural racism within the institution; that they could not maintain a misunderstanding about mental health.

“They knew that if they did this there would be consequences, that they would be ostracised, they would lose their family, their position within this structure, and that people would blame them for it.

“They have done it anyway because they believed they couldn’t live with themselves if they didn’t question this authority. I think they have been heroic in taking this step.”

Previous winners of the Ripple of Hope award include Joe Biden and former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, as well as former Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, U2 singer Bono and Desmond Tutu.

Prof David Nasaw, author of the Pulitzer Prize-­nominated book The Patriarch, about John and Robert’s father Joseph Kennedy, said he found the idea that the Sussexes had been honoured with the award “somewhere between sublimely ridiculous and blatantly ludicrous”.

‘A bewildering choice’

He has been quoted as saying: “What in God’s name have they done to merit this? What percentage of Harry and Meghan’s wealth is going to worthy causes?”

Robert Kennedy Jr has also described it as “a bewildering choice”.

The gala will take place four days after the Prince and Princess of Wales attend the Earthshot prize in Boston, inspired by John F Kennedy’s Moonshot.

Prince William has partnered with the JFK Library Foundation to host the ceremony. Caroline Kennedy, John F Kennedy’s daughter, has said: “There is no more important Moonshot today than repairing the planet and no better place to harness the Moonshot spirit than the city of Boston.”

Organisers announced that Harry and Meghan were chosen for the award because they have “demonstrated a lifelong commitment to building strong and equitable communities, advancing the global dialogue around mental health, and advocating for a better world – both on and offline.”