Meghan Markle’s anti-racism speech to students at her former high school was delivered without notes, and after she had conversations with “community figures” about the killing of George Floyd.
Floyd was killed in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Meghan, 38, had not previously spoken out about the killing, having mothballed the social media account she shared with her husband Prince Harry when they were senior royals. They have not launched a new, personal social media presence yet and have been speaking through charities since they moved to LA.
But Meghan broke her silence on Wednesday as she addressed the graduating class of Immaculate Heart High School, which she attended as a teenager.
A friend of the Duchess told Newsweek: "As you can probably tell, it's pretty raw and she spoke without notes.
"But she's been having lots of conversations about the issue before filming.
"Both her and Harry have been having private calls with community figures about everything, so I'm sure that helped form her view."
The duchess admitted she had struggled to know what to say, adding: “I wanted to say the right thing and I was really nervous that I wouldn’t, or that it would get picked apart, and I realised the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing.”
Meghan told the students at her old school about her own experiences of seeing race riots in LA when she was a teenager, and told them she was sorry they had to grow up with the same things happening.
But she encouraged them to treat what is happening as history, and to “rebuild and rebuild and rebuild until it is rebuilt”.
She also urged them to vote, a comment which might have been seen as too political were she still a senior royal.
She said: “You are going to lead with love, you are going to lead with compassion, you are going to use your voice. You are going to use your voice in a stronger way than you’ve ever been able to do, because most of you are 18, or you’re going to turn 18, so you’re going to vote.”
A spokesman for the couple told Harper’s Bazaar: "She felt compelled to directly address and speak to these young women about what’s happening in this country right now around the killing of George Floyd—as well as what’s been happening over many, many years and many, many generations to countless other black Americans."
A source added: “This is something that is incredibly personal to Meghan, especially given everything she has experienced. And as a couple it is, of course, very important. They are both feeling it, just like the rest of us.”
One of those who graduated virtually tweeted: “I’m crying.”
im crying— blm • gia (@hyunsukspmoclip) June 4, 2020
It’s not the first time Meghan has addressed racial issues. In one significant moment as a senior royal, she told a group of women facing gender-based violence in South Africa: “On one personal note, may I just say that while I am here with my husband as a member of the Royal Family, I want you to know that for me, I am here with you as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a woman of colour, and as your sister.”