We must acknowledge past wrongs, Charles tells Commonwealth leaders - OLD

·4-min read
The Prince of Wales (Chris Jackson/PA) (PA Wire)
The Prince of Wales (Chris Jackson/PA) (PA Wire)

The Prince of Wales has told Commonwealth leaders the potential of the family of the nations for good cannot be realised until we all “acknowledge the wrongs which have shaped our past”.

Charles described how he was on a personal journey of discovery and was continuing to “deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact”, in a speech at the opening of a Commonwealth summit in Rwanda.

He recognised the roots of the family of nations “run deep into the most painful period of our history” and acknowledging the wrongs of the past was a “conversation whose time has come”.

The Prince of Wales shakes hands with Prime Minister Boris Johnson as they attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) opening ceremony at Kigali Convention Centre (Chris Jackson/PA) (PA Wire)
The Prince of Wales shakes hands with Prime Minister Boris Johnson as they attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) opening ceremony at Kigali Convention Centre (Chris Jackson/PA) (PA Wire)

But there was no apology from the heir to the throne for the royal family’s involvement in the transportation and selling of people for profit.

For centuries, successive monarchs and other royals participated in the trade, either supporting and facilitating the activity or making money from it.

Charles told the gathering of prime ministers and presidents, who included Boris Johnson, he could not “describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many” during slavery.

The prince is representing the Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm), but his visit to the Rwandan capital Kigali has been overshadowed by a row over reported comments he made criticising the Government’s scheme to send asylum seekers to the east African nation.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, seated along with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Scotland and the Prince of Wales, and Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (Dan Kitwood/PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, seated along with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Scotland and the Prince of Wales, and Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (Dan Kitwood/PA) (PA Wire)

A much-anticipated meeting between Charles and Boris Johnson lasted 15 minutes. Before they sat down for talks, Mr Johnson had stepped back from comments he would tell Charles to be open-minded about his Rwanda asylum policy.

The prince told the world leaders the family of nations was “uniquely positioned to achieve such positive change in our world”, adding: “To achieve this potential for good, however, and to unlock the power of our common future, we must also acknowledge the wrongs which have shaped our past.

“Many of those wrongs belong to an earlier age with different – and, in some ways lesser – values. By working together, we are building a new and enduring friendship.”

Charles, who will succeed the Queen as head of the Commonwealth, went on to say: “For while we strive together for peace, prosperity and democracy, I want to acknowledge that the roots of our contemporary association run deep into the most painful period of our history.

The Prince of Wales, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Scotland, President of Rwanda Paul Kagame and Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Chris Jackson/PA) (PA Wire)
The Prince of Wales, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Scotland, President of Rwanda Paul Kagame and Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Chris Jackson/PA) (PA Wire)

“I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many, as I continue to deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact.

“If we are to forge a common future that benefits all our citizens, we too must find new ways to acknowledge our past. Quite simply, this is a conversation whose time has come.”

Charles also told the world leaders decisions about whether they keep the Queen as head of state or become a republic was an issue for them to make, and a long life had taught him these fundamental changes could be made “calmly and without rancour”.

His comments are likely to be interpreted as acknowledging forces already in motion, as a number of Caribbean nations have already suggested they may ditch the British monarchy and elect their own heads of state.

The Duchess of Cornwall and Carrie Johnson, the wife of Prime Minister Boris Johnson attending the opening of the Commonwealth summit. Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror (PA Wire)
The Duchess of Cornwall and Carrie Johnson, the wife of Prime Minister Boris Johnson attending the opening of the Commonwealth summit. Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror (PA Wire)

“I want to say clearly, as I have said before, that each member’s Constitutional arrangement, as republic or monarchy, is purely a matter for each member country to decide,” the prince said.

Charles and Mr Johnson had met briefly before they joined leaders from the Commonwealth’s 54 member states in the Kigali Conference Centre’s main hall for the opening ceremony.

Delegates included the Sultan of Brunei, the presidents of Botswana, Guyana, Nigeria and Uganda and prime ministers from Canada, Jamaica, St Lucia, Cameroon and Singapore.

The British Prime Minister had warmly greeted the heir to the throne ahead of the Chogm launch, displaying positive body language after he appeared to take a veiled verbal swipe, on Thursday, at the prince and those who have attacked his plans to forcibly remove migrants to Rwanda.

Charles’s speech to Commonwealth leaders, which also covered the issues of youth opportunity and climate change, was considered an opportunity to “set out his vision” for its future, an aide said.

With 60% of the Commonwealth’s 2.6 billion population under 30, Charles sees ensuring youth opportunity, training and employment as “critical”.

Many member states were “massively impacted” by climate change and so for the prince to bring businesses to Chogm to discuss potential solutions was “critically important”, the aide added.

And Charles realised that in order to achieve that vision the “historic shared past” must be recognised, which meant him making a personal statement about his sorrow.

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