(CNN) — Princess Michael of Kent apologized after coming under fire for wearing a controversial brooch to a Buckingham Palace lunch attended by Prince Harry’s fiancée, Meghan Markle.
She was pictured wearing a blackamoor-style brooch that depicted an African figure on her coat on her way to the royal family event Wednesday.
It’s unclear whether Princess Michael wore the item of jewelry in Markle’s presence at the palace. The American actress has previously written about the challenges of being the child of a white father and African-American mother.
Blackamoor, a decorative style that depicts African people as exoticized figures, is widely considered offensive. Media reports showing Princess Michael wearing the brooch prompted Twitter users to label her at worst overtly racist and at best out of touch.
“The brooch was a gift and had been worn many times before. Princess Michael is very sorry and distressed that it has caused offense,” her representative said in a statement Friday.
Former royal chef Darren McGrady tweeted that Princess Michael’s decision to wear the brooch was an “appalling show of disrespect and jealousy.”
The princess, who was born Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz in the former Czechoslovakia, is married to the Queen’s first cousin.
In a 2015 article for New York University on blackamoor art, writer Anneke Rautenbach described the Italian decorative style as being tied in with ideas of racial conquest.
“The motif emerged as an artistic response to the European encounter with the Moors — dark-skinned Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East who came to occupy various parts of Europe during the Middle Ages,” she wrote. “Commonly fixed in positions of servitude — as footmen or waiters, for example — the figures personify fantasies of racial conquest.”
Art historian Adrienne L. Childs, an associate of Harvard University’s Hutchins Center, described in a 2012 presentation how the blackamoor “became the ultimate symbol of the objectified black male body.”
According to the royal family’s official website, Princess Michael is an international lecturer on topics of history and art, and has written several historical books.
Prince Harry and Markle, who announced their engagement last month, will wed on May 19 in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, west of London. They published a set of official engagement photos Thursday, a day after the royal lunch.
The couple will spend their first Christmas as an engaged couple with Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family at Sandringham, the Queen’s country estate in rural Norfolk, around 100 miles north of London.