Prince Harry, flayed for using a racist word to describe a fellow Pakistani officer, has received unexpected support from an Indian-origin friend who says the royals call him "Sooty" but they are not racist.
The man called "Sooty" by Prince Charles and his two sons is Kuldip Dhillon, a wealthy property developer who plays polo with the royals at the Cirencester Polo Club near the Prince of Wales's Highgrove estate.
Dhillon says the nick name is a "term of affection". He was reacting to the controversy over Prince Harry's use of racist words to describe those undergoing army training with him. The prince has since apologised for using such words.
"I have to say that you know you have arrived when you acquire a nickname. I enjoy being called Sooty by my friends, who I am sure universally use the name as a term of affection with no offence meant or felt. The Prince of Wales is a man of zero prejudice and both his sons have always been most respectful," The Times quoted Dhillon as saying.
A member of the polo club, requesting anonymity, has said, "They (the princes) are no more racists than I am, and I use the word to address this chap (Dhillon) whenever I see him, too."
A spokesperson for the royal family said in a statement on Tuesday, "The Prince of Wales has a very strong view on racial intolerance. No one has been more of an advocate for the understanding and tolerance of various religious and ethnic groups and his record speaks volumes on this issue."
However, Give Racism a Red Card, an anti-racism charity, has objected to the royals calling Dhillon by his nickname.
"In our view there's no friendly banter where racism is concerned. The members of the royal family, with all the money that's been spent on their education, should be aware that calling people 'Sooty' is unacceptable," it said in a statement.