The Duke of Cambridge expressed his "profound sorrow" for the "appalling atrocity of slavery" in a speech during a state dinner in Jamaica last night.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are midway through a royal tour of the Caribbean in celebration of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee and have have been met with protests during their trip, particularly in Jamaica, with Jamaican leaders seeking an apology and slavery reparations from the monarchy.
“I want to express my profound sorrow,” the royal told senior politicians and dignitaries in the audience, at the dinner hosted by Jamaica's Governor General. “Slavery was abhorrent. And it should never have happened.”
He continued: “While the pain runs deep, Jamaica continues to forge its future with determination, courage and fortitude. I strongly agree with my father, the Prince of Wales, who said in Barbados last year that the appalling atrocity of slavery forever stains our history.”
"The strength and shared sense of purpose of the Jamaican people, represented in your flag and motto, celebrate an invincible spirit. It is this same spirit that spurred on the Windrush generation, who came to the United Kingdom to help rebuild after the Second World War. 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."
His speech follows a letter published by 100 prominent Jamaican politicians and professors who urged Prince William and Kate to apologise during their visit to Jamaica for "British crimes against humanity".
Jamaica became independent 60 years ago, but still remains a British Commonwealth realm with the Queen as the head of state. The country's violent past with Britain dates back to the 1600s, when the plantation labour system set up by the British in Jamaica relied on the labour of Africans through the transatlantic slave trade – an estimated 600,000 enslaved Africans were forcibly transported to Jamaica.
The letter, which was published over the weekend, read: "We see no reason to celebrate 70 years of the ascension of your grandmother to the British throne because her leadership, and that of her predecessors, have perpetuated the greatest human rights tragedy in the history of humankind."
It continued: "During her 70 years on the throne, your grandmother has done nothing to redress and atone for the suffering of our ancestors that took place during her reign and/or during the entire period of British trafficking of Africans, enslavement, indentureship and colonialisation."
Government officials begin the process of removing the Queen as head of state today, hoping to compete by the summer on Jamaica's 60th Independence Day on 6 August.
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