A former lady in waiting to the late queen who resigned from the royal household after repeatedly asking the black charity founder Ngozi Fulani where she was from during a charity palace reception has apologised to her in person, Buckingham Palace has said.
Susan Hussey, godmother to the Prince of Wales, met Fulani, the founder of Sistah Space, at the palace in a meeting described as “warm and understanding”, during which she apologised for comments including for asking “where she was really from” despite being told by Fulani she was British.
Buckingham Palace had criticised the remarks as “unacceptable and deeply regrettable” and Lady Hussey, who had been recently made a lady of the household following the Queen’s death, stepped down immediately.
A joint statement on behalf of Buckingham Palace and Fulani said the meeting to address the incident took place on Friday morning.
The statement said: “At this meeting, filled with warmth and understanding, Lady Susan offered her sincere apologies for the comments that were made and the distress they caused to Ms Fulani. 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.
“Ms Fulani, who has unfairly received the most appalling torrent of abuse on social media and elsewhere, has accepted this apology and appreciates that no malice was intended.
“The royal households will continue their focus on inclusion and diversity, with an enhanced programme of work which will extend knowledge and training programmes, examining what can be learnt from Sistah Space, and ensuring these reach all members of their communities.
“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.
“It is the wish of both parties that, at the end of the UN’s 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, attention can now return to the important work of Sistah Space in supporting women affected by domestic abuse.
“Their majesties the king and the queen consort and other members of the royal family have been kept fully informed and are pleased that both parties have reached this welcome outcome.”
Fulani claimed that during the reception, Hussey moved her hair to reveal her name badge and persistently questioned her over where her “people” came from, despite having been told she was a British national.
She said she felt traumatised by the incident, which she described as an example of “institutional racism”.
After the incident became headline news, Fulani said she had received “horrific abuse”. In a statement at the time, she said: “My team, family and I have been put under immense pressure and received some horrific abuse via social media. Yet throughout this time I have been heartened by the huge amount of support we have received.”
Hussey, the widow of the former BBC chair Sir Marmaduke Hussey, is a close friend of the king. Her daughter, Katherine Brooke, has just been appointed as one of Camilla’s new queen’s companions.
Speaking to the Guardian after the incident, she said the first “no no” was Hussey moving her hair. “Here I am in this place as part of the 16 days of activism, experiencing non-physical violence – you feel like you have the right to approach me, put your hand in my hair and insist I don’t have the right to British nationality. In a space like that, what do you do?” She said she had “never felt so unwelcome or so uncomfortable”.
But she had not wanted Hussey’s resignation, she said at the time. “I would have preferred that she had been spoken to or re-educated.”