The president of the Robert F Kennedy foundation has revealed why the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be given a prestigious human rights award.
Kerry Kennedy, who is the daughter of Robert and niece of John F Kennedy, said the couple were chosen for the Ripple of Hope award for challenging the royal family’s “power structure”.
She added that they took a “heroic stand” against “structural racism within the institution” of the monarchy.
The Ripple of Hope award is an annual award given to “exemplary leaders” and has previously gone to US president Joe Biden and former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
Kerry, a human rights lawyer, said that the Duke and Duchess “went to the oldest institution in UK history and told them what they were doing wrong”, adding that it was a “heroic” step.
A prestigious gala ceremony will be held on 6 December in New York, emceed by Alec Baldwin. It will also honour Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky, Frank Baker, the co-founder of Siris, Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, and Michael Polsky, CEO of Invenergy.
Harry and Meghan are expected to attend the event and spots at their table are reportedly going for up to $1m (£841,000).
Speaking to Spanish online news site El Confidencial’s Vanitatis magazine, Kerry was asked for her opinion on the criticism Harry and Meghan received for making allegations of racism against the royal family.
She replied: “When my father went to South Africa in 1966, he spoke in front of a white audience and said that the problem in this generation is talking about racial justice.
“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. And this is what Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have done.”
Kerry explained that the Duke and Duchess told the royal family 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,” she continued.
“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.”
It comes after Professor David Nasaw called the decision to give the couple the award as “absurd”.
Prof Nasaw, who is author of The Patriarch, a book about Bobby Kennedy’s father, Joseph Kennedy, said: “I find it somewhere between sublimely ridiculous and blatantly ludicrous.
“If you look at the people who have been awarded the Robert Kennedy prize in the past – Bill and Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi [Speaker of the US House of Representatives], Bishop Desmond Tutu – and then you have to ask what are Harry and Meghan doing here?
“What in God’s name have they done to merit this? What percentage of Harry and Meghan’s wealth is going to worthy causes?”
In March 2021, Harry and Meghan gave an explosive interview to Oprah Winfrey, in which they accused others within “the firm” of “racism” and revealed that life as a working royal left Meghan contemplating suicide.
The Duchess claimed that there had been “concerns” about “how dark” her son Archie’s skin might be while she was still pregnant with him.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement following the interview that the issues raised by the couple “particularly that of race, are concerning”. It added: “While recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”