The Controversial Symbolism of Blackamoor Brooches

Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images/Karwai Tang/WireImage

Videos by Rare

Videos by Rare

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s new Netflix series, Harry & Meghan, is earning harsh reviews as critics from both sides of the political aisle slam the couple for being out of touch. Even royal fans are complaining that the documentary episodes don’t provide much new insight into the Windsor family drama. However, there is one aspect that had not been discussed publicly before: the scandal of the blackamoor brooch.

‘Harry & Meghan’

Harry & Meghan is a new documentary series on Netflix. It follows Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex from the start of their love story to the present day… including their decision to officially leave the royal family. It is directed by the documentarian Liz Garbus.

The couple is not shy when it comes to airing their personal business. Most notably, in 2021, there was the bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey. But this new series offers a closer account for any royal obsessives. The first three one-hour episodes were released on December 8, and three more episodes will come out on December 15.

In general, Harry & Meghan has earned harsh reviews from critics. From The Guardian to Variety to Deadline, there is a shared sentiment that the first three episodes do not contain any new or revelatory information. However, one moment from episode 3 is generating some scandalous buzz.

It concerns blackamoor brooches.

Blackamoor Jewelry

The third episode of Harry & Meghan explores, in greater detail, Britain’s colonial history. And one event from 2017 seemed to signify how that past still defines the royal family today — particularly when it comes to their interactions with Meghan Markle.

It occurred at a Christmas party in 2017, shortly after the couple announced their engagement.

First, Meghan gushes about the excitement of that day. “I remember so vividly the first Christmas… it’s a big family like I always wanted,” she says in the documentary. She and Harry were attending his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II’s annual pre-Christmas lunch and Meghan was meeting most of his relatives for the first time.

But the meeting turned into a media firestorm after a photo of Princess Michael of Kent, the wife of the Queen’s first cousin, went viral. Taken on the day of the party, the picture clearly showed the Princess donning a blackamoor brooch on her lapel.

The name comes from the term “black moor” which had been a British term for black people beginning around the 16th century.

A blackamoor sculpture via Pinterest

Blackamoor brooches, or more generally blackamoor art pieces, depict black men, usually with an exaggeratedly dark complexion. This also creates a sharper contrast with the bright gold embellishments that were commonly included. The blackamoor style was popular throughout the 1700s, and blackamoor brooches were one of the most common types of blackamoor jewelry.

Although the jewelry pieces do not typically include the subject’s full body, blackamoor sculptures do. In these, the black men are further exoticized: depicted nearly naked, often in turbans and holding trays or serving in some way. Simply put, they are motifs that romanticized the slave trade for the ruling class.

And today, they are widely recognized as overtly racist.

Princess Michael of Kent

Following the event in 2017, a spokesperson for Princess Michael released a statement saying: “The brooch was a gift and has been worn many times before. Princess Michael is very sorry and distressed that it has caused offence.”

But this was not the first time the princess was accused of racism. The Princess was born a baronness what is now the Czech Republic. Her father was a Nazi and a member of the SS Cavalry Corps… and that seems telling.

In 2004, while at a restaurant New York, the Princess allegedly told fellow diners to “go back to the colonies.” She later tried to clarify that statement, but it didn’t help: “I said ‘You should remember the colonies.’ Back in the days of the colonies, there were rules that were very good.” She also referred to the black patrons as “a group of rappers.”

She is also apparently… anti-animal? In 2015, Princess Michael made headlines for saying that animals do not have rights because they do not pay taxes or vote.

But of course, the biggest fallout came in 2017 when she donned the blackamoor brooch.

Then, in 2018, her daughter’s ex-boyfriend, the journalist Aatish Ali Taseer, revealed that the princess owns two black sheep — named Venus and Serena Williams. Yikes.

READ MORE: Could Prince Harry Be the Product of Diana’s Affair?

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