Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, are undertaking a tour of the Caribbean, which has been met with protests against Britain’s role in the slave trade, and the monarchy itself. The Queen is still the official head of state in Commonwealth nations such as Jamaica, with growing calls for the Royal Family to officially recognise its role in colonialism and make reparations.
The Duke’s comments came during a dinner hosted by Jamaican Governor-General, Sir Patrick Allen, and echoed comments made by his father, Prince Charles, in Barbados last year when it became a republic, though he stopped short of issuing an outright apology.
Speaking to dignitaries, William said: “I want to express my profound sorrow. Slavery was abhorrent. And it should never have happened.
“While the pains run deep, Jamaica continues to forge its future with determination, courage and fortitude.
“The strength and shared sense of purpose of the Jamaican people, represented in your flag and motto, celebrates an invincible spirit.”
During his speech, William paid tribute to the Windrush generation – the thousands of people who came to the UK from the Caribbean to assist with the post-war efforts in 1948, some of whom were later illegally deported or denied settled status – and announced a statue will be unveiled at Waterloo Station later this year.
He said: “I’m delighted that a national monument acknowledging and celebrating the Windrush generation by Jamaican artist Basil Watson, will be unveiled later this year in Waterloo Station in London.”
He added: “We are forever grateful for the immense contribution that this generation and their descendants have made to British life, which continues to enrich and improve our society.”
In his speech he also noted the Queen’s affection for Jamaica and the Commonwealth.
King Charles II granted approval for the UK’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade in 1663. Slave trading was only prohibited throughout the British Empire in 1807.
Dr Rosalea Hamilton, an economist and activist who helped organise a protest outside the British High Commission in Kingston on the day of Kate and William’s arrival, is calling for reparations.
She said: “There are historical wrongs and they need to be addressed.”
One attendee at the rally is reported to have said: “Kate and William are beneficiaries, so they are, in fact, complicit because they are positioned to benefit specifically from our ancestors, and we’re not benefitting from our ancestors.
“The luxury and the lifestyle that they have had and that they continue to have, traipsing all over the world for free with no expense, that is a result of my great, great grandmother and grandfather, their blood and tears and sweat.”
So what do YOU think? Should William have directly apologised to Jamaica? Should the UK pay reparations for slave history? Vote in our poll and join the debate in the comment section below.