'Too dark for adoption' - Royal crisis prompts man to reveal his anguish

Robert Long's experience of being mixed race and having his colour talked about by other people as a baby.

Robert Long was adopted as a baby, but was always made to feel an outsider. Papers released in 2007 show there was a lot of conversation and concern around his skin colour in the 1950s. - Credit: Supplied by Robert Long

Claims that concerns were raised about the skin colour of Meghan and Harry's unborn child have prompted a man to share his story of being "too dark" to be adopted.

Robert Long, 68, of Kirby Cane, near Beccles, said the allegations made in the Oprah Winfrey interview had encouraged him to reveal for the first time his own experience of being judged by the colour of his skin when still a baby in a children's home.

Robert Long Bungay

Flashback: Robert Long pictured outside his Crown Jewellers shop in Bungay. He spent many years in the pawnbroking and jewellery business. - Credit: Roy Strowger

He said the attitudes towards colour displayed in the 1950s had affected him every day of his life.

As a child he had been told he was "special" and fantasised about being selected from a bank of babies - the one that was wanted above all the others.

The couple, his new parents, already had a girl and wanted a boy - he completed the perfect family.

But behind the net curtains things were not as they seemed.

He said his sister was favoured and enjoyed preferential treatment, never having to work or do chores, and was granted days off school for the slightest sniffle while he had to soldier on.

Most Read

The difference was he was adopted, and reluctantly so, amid encouragement from the authorities that his parents could "get used" to his skin colour.

Documents handed over to him in 2007 following a change in the law revealed attitudes to mixed race similar to those Meghan and Harry said were expressed by a member of the Royal Family.

Mr Long was born outside of marriage to a nurse and an engineer, both in their 20s, in Barnet.

He was put up for adoption in Woking and was handed to a family in Sussex just before his second birthday.

The papers, however, reveal that far from the imagined scenario of being chosen he was pressed upon his adoptive parents as the best and only boy on offer.

They also show he was refused by the National Children's Adoption Society "because of dark colouring".

Harry and Meghan baby colouring row resonates with Robert Long

Extract from a National Children's Home document revealing Robert Long was refused by the National Children's Adoption Society because of his 'dark colouring' as a baby. - Credit: Robert Long

A letter to Mr Long's adoptive parents from the National Children's Home said his father's maternal grandmother was Persian, tagging it "a remote factor of hereditary" that they did not consider "in any way detrimental", adding: "However it will be for you, of course, to decide for yourselves."

Elsewhere, he said his parents were urged "not to worry" about the colour of his skin, saying they would "get used to it and adapt to it".

Reading the documents he said: "I just broke down.

"That was my life in an inch thick folder. All my dreams about who I was came crashing down.

"It was all one big lie."

By this time his father had died and he never confronted his mother or even told his sister.

Robert Long adoption documents

A section from a document dating from 1953 noting Robert Long was 'very dark skinned' - something that was considered a possible barrier to adoption. - Credit: Robert Long

That such attitudes about skin colour stemming from the slave trade and colonialism are still allegedly being expounded by the Royal Family was shocking he said.

"This cannot be happening," he added.

"If royalty can get away with it people can walk down the street and abuse each other."

He said the initial concern from the children's home about his skin colour was racist and helped fuel his parents "mean" attitude towards him as being "not quite what they really wanted" from the start.

The bias towards light skin had harmed him even before he could talk.

Overall he had a miserable childhood, particularly after he found out from a neighbour aged nine that he was adopted.

From then on it was "carte blanche" to call him the "black sheep of the family" and make  him unhappy.

As it was he credited this difficult start with instilling an entrepreneurism that helped him later on.

He went on to marry and have two children.

Thirty years ago he opened the first pawn brokers in Norwich and went on to own a string of shops across East Anglia.

"I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me." he said.

"We are like ostriches, we bury our heads in the sand. But this Meghan Markle thing has lit the touch paper and created a blazing furnace out of something that has always been glowing in the background.

"I have kept this a secret all my life even from my sister, who is my parents' natural daughter.

"I have always been told I was lucky and should be grateful and have had that rammed down my throat all my life.

"I started off life being told I had the wrong colouring to get into children's home.

"This is racism  - not from someone in the street but from an official body - and in my meagre way I have had to live with it every day of my life."