Prince William says people in ex-colonies must decide monarchy's role

AFP , Sunday 27 Mar 2022

Prince William ended a turbulent tour of the Caribbean by starkly admitting this weekend that the region's former British colonies must decide whether to scrap the monarchy's role in their countries.

Protests in Caribbean
Members of Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress Church protest against the visit of the Britain s Prince Williams and Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge outside the Sybil Strachan Primary School, in Nassau, AFP

The 39-year-old Duke of Cambridge also hinted that a British royal may in future no longer head the club of 54 Commonwealth countries as the political association of ex-colonies evolves.

The unusually candid comments, which were splashed on the front of several British newspapers Sunday, followed a rocky three-country Caribbean tour over the last week which drew both protests and criticism.

William and his wife Catherine, 40, faced calls to apologise for the slave trade that helped make past British royals' fortunes, and accusations of appearing "tone deaf" over elements of the visit.

They were also forced to confront the issue of former colonies considering whether to follow Barbados' lead and ditch the queen as their head of state.

Barbados formally declared itself a republic in November.

Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas -- all stops on the royal tour -- are each said to be mulling such a move.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness pointedly told William in front of television cameras that the nation was "moving on" as an independent country.

"I know that this tour has brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future," the Duke of Cambridge said in an end-of-tour statement Saturday.

"In Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas, that future is for the people to decide upon."

William added he and his wife "are committed to service" and that meant "not telling people what to do" but instead "serving and supporting them".

'On my mind'

The Commonwealth, a grouping of 54 mainly former British colonies, is headed by Queen Elizabeth II.

In 2018, its leaders formally announced that her son and heir Prince Charles would inherit the role when he becomes king.

But William, second-in-line to the throne, said that "who the Commonwealth chooses to lead its family in the future isn't what is on my mind".

"What matters to us is the potential the Commonwealth family has to create a better future for the people who form it, and our commitment to serve and support as best we can," he added.

The couple's Caribbean trip was intended to help Commonwealth countries where his 95-year-old grandmother is also head of state celebrate her record-breaking 70 years on the throne.

But what were designed to be carefully choreographed photocalls and public appearances for Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee did not go entirely to plan.

In Belize, they angered some locals after failing to consult on parts of their itinerary, while they then prompted placard-bearing protests in Jamaica.

Demonstrators demanded the monarchy pay reparations and apologize for its role in the slave trade that brought hundreds of thousands of Africans to the island to toil under inhumane conditions.

Meanwhile, some of the optics of the tour drew criticism for evoking colonial rule, including the couple greeting kids through metal chain-link fences and William parading in an open-topped jeep in military uniform.

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