Jamaican campaigners blast Prince William’s ‘tone deaf’ and ‘unacceptable’ speech on slavery

The Duke and Duchess attend the inaugural Commissioning Parade for service personnel in Kingston on 24 March  (Getty)
The Duke and Duchess attend the inaugural Commissioning Parade for service personnel in Kingston on 24 March (Getty)

Prince William has faced criticism after he failed to apologise on behalf of the monarchy for slavery during a speech in Jamaica amid a second wave of reparations protests during his visit.

The Duke of Cambridge expressed “profound sorrow” over the “abhorrent” trafficking and enslavement of millions of Africans which amassed wealth for the British state.

He addressed the topic while delivering a speech during a state dinner hosted by Patrick Allen, governor general of Jamaica, at King’s House in Kingston on Wednesday.

Advocates Network, the coalition behind reparations protests on Tuesday, blasted the duke’s “unacceptable” and “tone deaf” address, describing it as confirmation of “the insensitivity of the Royal family to the plight of Jamaicans today, both here in Jamaica and in Britain.”

“Prince William’s statement is not an apology! The expression of “profound sorrow,” is unacceptable. Why? It is merely an acknowledgement that slavery was abhorrent. A bad thing that all well thinking persons would condemn,” the organisaton wrote in a statement.

“There was no responsibility taken! No call-out of centuries of British bloody conquest and plunder. No call out of the dehumanisation and exploitation. Expressing ‘gratitude for the immense contribution that the Windrush generation and descendants made … which continues to enrich our society’ whitewashes the abhorrent involvement and enrichment of the monarchy of which the Duke is heir.

“There was no committing to reparations. This ‘tone deaf’ statement echoes the well-crafted words of his father. It does not rise to the level of the formal apology that we deserve. All that it does is to confirm the insensitivity of the Royal family to the plight of Jamaicans today, both here in Jamaica and in Britain.”

The collective added: “This response strengthens the Advocates Network’s resolve to ensure that our government escalates the steps in establishing a Republic. This must be on terms that will put power in the hands of the Jamaican people, and complete the decolonisation process.

“William’s words strengthens our resolve to join other Jamaicans at home and abroad, as well as other CARICOM nationals, in demanding a formal apology and reparations.”

Responding to the duke’s speech, Jamaican MP Lisa Hanna said Jamaica needs “more than royal regrets over slavery”.

“Condemning slavery with no action, as both Prince Charles and Prince William did, is not particularly bold, nor does it show courage. I would hope that this rhetoric is a start and not an end to their journey on the issue of reparations and justice,” the politician, who is also a United Nations Development Programme goodwill ambassador, wrote in a column.

Prince William expressed gratitude at the Windrush generation’s “immense contribution” to British society without acknowledging the scandal of 2018, which revealed that Her Majesty’s Government stripped thousands of these citizens of their right to remain in the UK.

They were refused the right to work and access healthcare, some were deported while others have died while awaiting compensation for their plight.

“The strength and shared sense of purpose of the Jamaican people, represented in your flag and motto, celebrate an invincible spirit,” he said.

“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.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived in Jamaica on Tuesday to a much-publicised demonstration urging the monarchy to pay reparations for slavery, and there have been calls from politicians for the country to drop the Queen as head of state and become a republic.

Jamaica’s prime minister Andrew Holness told the royal couple on Wednesday that the nation will be decoupling from the British monarchy.

This comes after senior political sources within Jamaica told The Independent that the process had already begun after top-level talks commenced months ago.