Buckingham Palace in London has once again sent the next generation of British royals on a so-called charm tour to the Caribbean but like last month’s visit involving Prince William and wife, Kate, the British are being royally reminded of their role in the brutal slave trade and the need to pay reparations.
Prince Edwards and his wife Sophie arrived in the region at the weekend on a three-nation Eastern Caribbean tour that includes St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Antigua but even before they had set foot in the sub region, reparations groups and rights committees were making it plain to them that they want to talk about reparations rather than engage in the usual royal platitudes. Grenada was originally scrubbed from the itinerary in circumstances that are still unclear but officials say it is linked to demands by the reparations committee to meet with Earl and his wife to demand compensation. Officials fear that such a moment would have embarrassed all sides.
Charm tour apart, the visit is also being billed as one to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 70th year on the throne.
“We know that the British Crown, both as royal family and as institution, is historically documented as an active participant in the largest crimes against humanity of all time,” said Antigua’s reparations commission ahead of their scheduled arrival on Monday. “Why is it so hard for you to sincerely apologize for your nation’s role in slavery, like decent human beings do when they offend? We know that acknowledging and accounting for wrongs are deeply enshrined within both British law and society,” the body said.
It contended that Africans and their descendants have been on the receiving end of barbaric policies from London while noting that the royal family continues “to “live in splendor, pomp and wealth attained through the proceeds of the crimes. We know that the British Crown, both as a royal family and as an institution, is historically documented as an active participant in the largest crimes against humanity of all time,” it said, calling for reparations payments to be made to descendants.
In St. Vincent, a small group of about 20 protestors were able to capture local and international media attention with placards denouncing the British role in the transatlantic slave trade while reparations commission members denounced the royal presence.
“The British were responsible for the hunting down, kidnapping and transshipment of 60% of all of the Africans who were taken from the African continent. They hunted us down, they kidnapped us. They stole us. They worked us. They owe us and they must now pay us,” I Witness news quoted former reparations chair Jomo Thomas as saying.
Last month, an even higher profile visit by Prince William and Kate encountered difficult periods particularly during stops in Belize and Jamaica. In Belize, authorities had to cancel one major event for fear of exposing the royals to strident and embarrassing protests from indigenous groups, while in Jamaica, an outburst from Prime Minister Andrew Holness caught everyone off guard during a formal ceremony.
“We are moving on,” Holness blurted out while telling the touring party that Jamaica will later this year join Guyana, Trinidad, Dominica and Barbados in ditching the Queen as its head of state and becoming a republic with its own Black or Brown president rather than William’s grandmother as head of state.
The local reparations commission had also made tough remarks about Britain and slavery and everywhere the party went, the British were attacked for compensating the owners of slaves during abolition rather than the victims who were forced to work for free in brutal conditions.
The visit came just around the time that regional leaders were meeting for their mid-year summit where reparations were discussed and where a renewed commitment was made to fight for the same.