Prince Edward’s Caribbean tour ‘may be one of the region’s last royal visits’, author claims after protests

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Prince Edward arrives at St John’s, Antigua and Barbuda   (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)
Prince Edward arrives at St John’s, Antigua and Barbuda (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

Prince Edward’s royal tour of Caribbean will be among the last to take place campaigners predict as their trip has been marked by anti-colonial protests and calls for slavery reparations.

The Earl of Wessex and his wife Sophie began a week-long tour of Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia last Friday in celebration of the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

The couple’s scheduled trip to Grenada was cancelled at the last minute following advice from the country’s government and governor-general.

Though an official reason has not been disclosed, the abrupt change of plan comes hours after reports that Britain directly owned hundreds of enslaved Black people in Grenada during the 18th century.

As the tour has progressed, so too have calls for reparatory justice from campaigners across all three destinations on the itinerary – from open letters demanding reparations to outright monarchial objections on the streets.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex visit the Patricia D James secondary school in Castries, Saint Lucia (Getty Images)
The Earl and Countess of Wessex visit the Patricia D James secondary school in Castries, Saint Lucia (Getty Images)

By the end of the tour, more countries in the Caribbean had indicated a future desire to divorce the British monarchy – namely Antigua & Barbuda and Saint Kitts & Nevis – just as Jamaica and Belize had, following the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s accursed excursion in recent weeks.

Responding to the Wessexes’ trip, Philip Murphy, author of The Empire’s New Clothes: the Myth of the Commonwealth, said: “It’s now clear that William and Kate’s ill-fated Caribbean tour last month wasn’t an outlier caused by poor planning.

“This is now likely to be the pattern for royal visits to the region and I expect they’ll peter out; 2022 looks like being a pivotal year.”

On Wednesday, Edward and Sophie were met by a group of protesters before a trip to a cocoa plantation in Saint Lucia where people held banners reading “repatriation with reparations” and “Queen say sorry” while playing drums and chanting.

Prince Edward inspects a guard of honour as he attends a performance celebrating Saint Lucia’s young people (Getty Images)
Prince Edward inspects a guard of honour as he attends a performance celebrating Saint Lucia’s young people (Getty Images)

Shortly beforehand, the earl spoke to a road sweeper with a broom standing in front of the small crowd of Black people and joked “I hope you keep this lot in order” while pretending to wave the broom. This remark has been criticised as another “tone-deaf” gaffe.

Republic, a UK-based anti-monarchy pressure group, claimed Edward demonstrated a “contemptible lack of interest” in issues raised by Antigua’s prime minister during a meeting on Monday, in which the leader appealed to the Wessexes to use their “diplomatic influence” to help provide “reparatory justice” for Caribbean countries that were colonised by Britain.

The prince laughed in response and joked that he had not been taking notes during Gaston Browne’s remarks, so could not respond to all the points he had made – much to the disappointment of campaigners. The prime minister did not laugh at the comment.

During this meeting, Mr Browne also signalled the country’s intention to become a republic “at some point” in the future.

Ahead of their visit to Antigua & Barbuda, ambassador Dorbrene O’Marde, chairman of the nation’s Reparations Support Commission, published an open letter about reparations to the royal couple.

The couple meet Philip Pierre, prime minister of Saint Lucia (Getty Images)
The couple meet Philip Pierre, prime minister of Saint Lucia (Getty Images)

The protests followed similar demonstrations in St Vincent and the Grenadines on Saturday, where some held signs saying “compensation now” and “Britain your debt is outstanding”.

The royals faced another high-profile cancellation in this country when its prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves, announced that he would not be receiving the couple because of an overseas medical appointment.

The couple were mocked for gifting the Saint Lucia prime minister Philip J Pierre with a signed photograph of themselves as a gift when kick-starting their visit to the island nation on Friday.

While it has previously been a custom for visiting royals to present world leaders with images of themselves during overseas visits, commentators slammed the gesture as “narcissistic’”, “tone-deaf” and “insulting”, particularly in the context of growing calls for slavery reparations. Some critics claimed that the present would “make a lovely ashtray”.

Commentator Shola Mos-Shogbamimu criticised the royal family and UK government for refusing to apologise for transatlantic slavery and pay reparations to the families of those who were held in captivity by white supremacist slavers.

“Whatever island they end up going to – the point is that the royal family is not ready to do the needful.

“What they’re trying to do with this tour is to recreate and bask in the glory of the British Empire, and these former colonised Caribbean nations are not having any of it,” she said.

“There are three things that need to be focused on, which the royal family and this government is not ready to: truth, reconciliation and justice. If they’re not ready to do that then what the heck are they going there for?”

A protest at the Fond Doux Cocoa Plantation in Saint Lucia during the royal visit (PA)
A protest at the Fond Doux Cocoa Plantation in Saint Lucia during the royal visit (PA)

In a strongly worded article published via Breadfruit News, solicitor Jomo Thomas Chambers gave a blistering assessment of the royal family’s relationship with its former colonies.

“We must not shake hands and smile with criminals. These colonial visitors should be made uncomfortable,” the piece, entitled “Mr Colonialism comes to town”, reads.

“This visit by Edward and Sophie must be the last of its kind to our country ... They must shudder at the thought of returning to these shores until they accede to our just demands to pay reparations for their brutal crimes against indigenous and African peoples.”

Jomo Thomas Chambers had strong words for the royal family (Supplied)
Jomo Thomas Chambers had strong words for the royal family (Supplied)

Mr Chambers, who is the former chair of the St Vincent & Grenadines Reparations Committee, continued: “The colonials organised and benefitted from the royal charter that allowed English slavers to travel to Africa and kidnap our ancestors.

“Edward and his wife Sophie should be reminded that they have stepped onto a crime scene at every turn.”

The National Council of St Vincent and the Grenadines said: “We as a community feel that the royal family and Buckingham Palace must rethink the future of royal tours following previous visits, given their involvement in the treatment of people of colour.”

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