It’s fair to say it’s not been a great few days for Prince Andrew, and, on Monday, it got even worse after he was accused of using the n-word in a conversation with a former British government adviser.
Rohan Silva, a key aide of former Prime Minister David Cameron, alleges that at a meeting in 2012, attended by himself and an unnamed royal aide, he asked the Queen’s second son whether the government department responsible for trade “could be doing a better job.”
He said the Duke of York responded: “Well, If you’ll pardon the expression, that really is the n***** in the woodpile.”
Silva, who has Sri Lankan heritage and was born in the U.K., has written about the encounter in a column in today’s London Evening Standard. Palace sources categorically denied to the Standard that Andrew ever used the phrase.
Silva, 38, said he clearly recalls “how I walked blinking into the sunshine outside Buckingham Palace, reeling at the prince’s use of language” after the meeting attended only by himself, Andrew, and a palace aide.
He added: “For a long time afterwards I kicked myself for not confronting the prince on his choice of words—and it’s something I still regret today. After all, he clearly wasn’t taken to task very often by the people around him, which meant offensive language went unchallenged.”
The shocking claim raises new questions about Prince Andrew’s judgment after an extraordinary interview with the BBC in which he said he did not regret his friendship with dead billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
The “n***** in the woodpile” is believed to have originated as a figure of speech in the U.S. South in the 19th-century and was used to describe fugitive slaves who hid in piles of logs as they fled north to Canada.
Silva said that the use of racist language was not an isolated incident. He said that at a Buckingham Palace meeting the previous year, discussing European Union reform, Andrew said: “What you have got to remember is that you’ll never get anywhere by playing the white man.”
Silva said: “I genuinely didn’t know what he meant, and the discussion moved on. But the phrase ‘playing the white man’ stuck in my head, as I’d never heard it before. So when I got back to my desk, I immediately Googled it.”
“The definition flashed up on my screen: an old-fashioned saying, used during colonial times, meaning that only white people can be trusted to follow the rules, unlike dark-skinned natives.”
Silva concluded: “I can’t help but wish I’d said something when I had the chance. After all, if we don’t call these things out, and dare to speak truth to power, nothing will ever change.”