Queen's cousin paid 'reparations' after discovering family link to slave trade

·Royal Correspondent
·4 min read
The Queen meeting David Lascelles, 8th Earl of Harewood during a visit to Leeds in 2012. (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA Wire)
The Queen meets David Lascelles, 8th Earl of Harewood, during a visit to Leeds in 2012. (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA Wire)

One of the Queen's cousins paid reparations to his community after discovering his family profited from the slave trade, it's been revealed.

Charlene White, who is hosting a documentary about the impact in the UK of the killing of George Floyd, said Earl David Lascelles, a first cousin one removed of the Queen, revealed to her the moment he discovered his family's problem past.

The earl, who runs Harewood House in Yorkshire, discovered papers in the basement of the property that showed they had profited "quite well – from the slave trade", White said. 

She told Metro: "He talked about the fact that they were quite uncomfortable with that fact but they had a choice – it was something they could keep to themselves or it was something they could be really honest about and do something about.

"And they decided that actually, they needed to be honest about this and they needed to work out a way to pay back and – it’s the word that has been bandied about a lot in the past year – reparations."

The Princess Royal speaks with David Lascelles, Earl of Harewood, as she arrives to open an exhibition of royal photographs taken by royal photographer Marcus Adams on display at Harewood House, Leeds.   (Photo by Anna Gowthorpe/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Princess Royal with David Lascelles, Earl of Harewood, during a visit to Harewood House in 2012. (Anna Gowthorpe/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Princess Royal speaks with David Lascelles, Earl of Harewood, as they view an exhibition of royal photographs taken by royal photographer Marcus Adams on display at Harewood House, Leeds.   (Photo by Anna Gowthorpe/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Princess Royal speaks with David Lascelles, Earl of Harewood, as they view an exhibition of royal photographs taken by royal photographer Marcus Adams on display at Harewood House, Leeds. (Anna Gowthorpe/PA Images via Getty Images)

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Back in 2014, Earl Lascelles and his wife Diane Howse sold a collection of rum found in their house and gave most of the money to the Geraldine Connor Foundation in Leeds, which helps disenfranchised young people in the performing arts.

At the time, he told the Yorkshire Post: "I thought it would be very apt for the proceeds from the rum to go towards a charity which benefits the West Indian community. The rum would have been made from sugar from Barbados, so for it to benefit that country’s heritage is very appropriate.

"I’ve always thought that apologising for something that happened a long time ago was a bit pointless, because you can’t turn back the clock, it doesn’t change anything, it’s not ‘Back to the Future’. It’s a bit of a politician’s gesture in my opinion. I think it’s much more important to engage with that legacy."

White was speaking ahead of the documentary, which being shown on ITV on Wednesday evening, and co-hosted by Sir Trevor McDonald.

Francesca de Bernart walks Zebedee the Alpaca in the grounds of Harewood House in Yorkshire. The stunning 18th-century house in the heart of the county has launched an Alpaca walking experience. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Harewood House after it launched an alpaca walking experience. (Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
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Harry, William and Kate at Harewood House in 2014 during the Tour de France. (Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images)

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On its website, Harewood House has said it is "committed to being honest about its past, being part of much needed conversations and transparent about colonial history".

It acknowledges that while the past cannot be changed, it can be used "to build a fairer, equal future".

When it reopens on 17 May, it will include an exhibition on Bertie Robinson, the first Black member of staff at the house, who was from St Vincent.

The exhibition says visitors will find out "about Bertie’s life as well exploring some of the Lascelles’ links to the West Indies and attitudes towards people of colour at that time".

It's the first in an annual series that will be on display at the house, offering a look at the lives of Black people with Yorkshire connections.

In the documentary, Earl Lascelles says: "I think it’s a period of history that as a nation, we’ve not come to terms with properly. I think that, until we do, a lot of the divisions, a lot of the conflicts, can’t be resolved until we understand our history properly."

Trevor McDonald & Charlene White: Has George Floyd Changed Britain? will air on ITV at 9pm on Wednesday, 12 May.

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