The Royal Family is facing backlash due to a week-long Kate and William Caribbean tour meant to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee after 70 years on the throne. The duke and duchess visited former British colonies Belize, Jamaica, and the Bahamas on 19th March 2022. The trip aimed to present the soft image of the British Monarchy during the time when these regions were striving to become republics. The duke and duchess wanted to try the last gasp effort to keep the Queen ruling these three islands with a combined population of more than 7 million people. However, things did not turn out as the monarchy may have expected. The tour that ended on 26th March may have strengthened the region’s plans to defy the Queen as their leader.
Kate and William Caribbean Tour Overshadowed by Colonial Past
Kate and William Caribbean tour faced growing calls in the region to cut ties with the monarchy. Thousands of villagers in Belize gathered in protest upon learning that the royal couple was going to land there. There were quite a few reasons for the locals to reject welcoming any family members of the Royal Family. One of them was the 2018 Windrush scandal when Britain wrongly detained commonwealth citizens, denied them legal rights in the UK, and gave them deportation threats. Reportedly, Home Office deported 83 people from the UK without any solid reason. Some of them became homeless and jobless, while others died before receiving any compensation. Moreover, William is a patron of a conservation charity, Flora and Fauna International (FFI), which is entangled in a dispute with local residents of the Toledo district in Belize. That was another reason for the villagers to stand up in protest against the royal visit.
Moving on to Jamaica, the couple again faced some embarrassment at the hands of Prime Minister Andrew Holness. In an awkward meeting, the PM told them that Jamaica would be moving on from the clutches of the British monarchy to become a republic state. Furthermore, a government committee in the Bahamas also used the couple’s visit to make a statement that British Royal Family must apologize for slave trading and crimes committed against humanity. Britain was responsible for ‘transporting” millions of captured Africans, including men, women, and children, to American colonies and forcing them to work on plantations without basic human rights.
Are they Trying to Save Another Barbados from Happening?
Kate and William Caribbean tour was controversial from the start because critics argued that the royal family was trying to discourage the three countries from becoming a republic like Barbados, one of Britain’s first slave colonies. British settlers occupied the island in 1627 and started sugar plantations with slave labour brought in from Africa. Barbados abolished slavery in 1834 and became independent by 1966. In 2021, it officially became a republic and removed the Queen as its head of state. Former governor-general Dame Sandra Mason became the first president of Barbados after voting in parliament. Even though the leaders no longer have to swear loyalty to the crown, Barbados will remain a part of the commonwealth of 54 former British colonies. Barbados is a prosperous Island, and its exit weakens the commonwealth. The same is the case with Belize, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. However, in his speech, the prince surprised everyone and supported the idea of these countries going republics. He also expressed shame for UK’s role in slavery by saying that it should have never happened and it had stained British history forever.
Despite the stark differences, there was indeed a minority that supported Queen to an extent. Otherwise, there’s mostly resentment and hostility towards anything that reeks of royalty. Kate and William Caribbean tour photos circling the internet also show only one side of the story. The duke and duchess appeared in pictures like they received a warm welcome upon arrival; however, it was not the case as per reports. Both of them shaking hands with Jamaican children through a wired fence and standing on top of a roofless land rover came off as a reminder of colonialism to many local activists. On the other hand, the pro-British Empire media painted the tour in a different light. They used headlines like “royal couple touch hearts”, “Kate dazzles in Jamaica”, and splashing full-page images of “diving duchess”, showing Kate scuba diving with nurse sharks. All of this distracts from reality and portrays the royal tour as some vacation on lands that Brits still think they own.
Consciousness of History in the Caribbean
Many Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean have been increasingly questioning the purpose of their relationship with the British Empire. They never received enough support during the COVID-19 pandemic that caused devastation across Jamaica. More than 120,000 children were left out of school, and nearly 3000 people died due to unequal access to coronavirus vaccines. Moreover, the UK revoked visa-free access for Jamaicans in 2003, which also contributed to shaping local sentiments that the relationship with the UK was pointless. In contrast to UK media, the Jamaican media dubbed the Kate and William Caribbean tour as “Charm Offensive”, which means using flattery and false promises to achieve agreement.
The reparations movement in the Caribbean, led by CARICOM Reparations Commission, has now grown more robust than ever. It is focused on seeking reimbursement from all those countries that built their history and wealth with the blood of non-white people. CARICOM Reparations Commission has been pursuing reparations for the enslavement and genocides of natives from the European colonizers like the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Norway, Netherlands, and Sweden. Locals are also increasingly becoming aware of the colonial legacy and racial oppression that caused trauma for the population, bringing down their confidence levels. The reparations movement gained more traction with the passing years as information about Jamaica’s natural history became accessible. Many were able to learn beyond the British interpretation of history long taught in the schools. Furthermore, Meghan Markle’s accusation of racism has already damaged the status of the British royal family. It was not the best time for Kate and William to plan this visit on the grounds of strengthening the commonwealth realm.