On Thursday, police in London revealed that they were investigating a letter containing white powder sent to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, his fiancée, earlier in February. The incident reportedly sparked an anthrax scare, and it may or may not be related to a similar letter that was received at the U.K. Houses of Parliament a day later.
The suspicious package for Prince Harry and Markle was delivered on Feb. 12 to St. James' Palace, which is used mostly for ceremonial purposes by the royal family. It contained white powder and a racist note, according to The Guardian.
Scotland Yard investigated the powder and found it to be harmless. The recipients' immediate fear was that it was anthrax, a bacteria that forms spores and causes flu-like symptoms and eventual respiratory collapse that can be fatal. Anthrax has previously been sent through the mail as a weapon of bioterrorism. In 2001, shorty after 9/11, letters containing anthrax in powder form were delivered to politicians and media outlets through the U.S. Postal Service. Five individuals died and 17 others were infected.
"The substance was tested and confirmed as non-suspicious," read a Scotland Yard statement about the powder sent to St. James' Palace. "Officers are also investigating an allegation of malicious communications which relates to the same package. No arrests; inquiries continue."
The Evening Standard reported that the incident led to a "security scare" but that the royal couple never personally received the package. Prince Harry and Markle have reportedly been informed about the situation.
The racist note that came with the package may have been targeting Markle, the actress from Suits, Horrible Bosses, and Remember Me who got engaged to marry Prince Harry this May. Markle is biracial: Her father is white and her mother is black. She's opened up about her background to Elle magazine, describing how it affected both her self-identity and her career in entertainment. When she began acting, Markle said that she felt like an "ethnic chameleon who couldn't book a job."
"To describe something as being black and white means it is clearly defined," she said. "Yet when your ethnicity is black and white, the dichotomy is not that clear. In fact, it creates a grey area. Being biracial paints a blurred line that is equal parts staggering and illuminating."
The package incident has led to increased attention on security risks posed by the upcoming wedding, according to The Evening Standard. The event will have a public component in which the royal couple rides in a carriage procession and greets crowds.
Meanwhile, another letter containing white powder was sent to an office in one of the U.K. Houses of Parliament on Feb. 13, the day after the suspicious delivery to St. James' Palace. This powder also provoked fears of anthrax but was found to be harmless. A London police spokeswoman told The Guardian that the powder is still being assessed by counter-terrorism specialists.
"Today the Metropolitan Police investigated a small package containing white powder on the parliamentary estate," the House of Commons said in a statement that day. "The powder was found to be non-harmful."
The second package is believed to have been addressed to the office of Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary of the British Cabinet and a conservative member of parliament. One office — presumably hers — closed for the day while an investigation was conducted, but the rest of the building remained open. The House was not as populated as usual at the time of the incident because parliament is in recess.
Detectives are reportedly looking into whether the two packages were sent by the same individual or individuals. No arrests have been made.