Prince Edward and Sophie Wessex to face demands for slavery reparations as royal Caribbean tour begins

Earl and Countess of Wessex set to visit three island nations in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

Nadine White
Race Correspondent
Thursday 21 April 2022 19:05 BST
<p>Prince Edward and his wife Sophie are embarking on a tour of the Caribbean </p>

Prince Edward and his wife Sophie are embarking on a tour of the Caribbean

Prince Edward and his wife Sophie are expected to face calls for slavery reparations during their visit to the Caribbean.

The royal couple will visit Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda between 22 - 28 April to mark 70 years of the Queen’s reign.

The “culture, future and vibrancy of the islands” will be celebrated during the trip, where the Wessexes will meet local communities, entrepreneurs and craftspeople.

But the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission is due to present an open letter regarding reparations and restorative justice for the transatlantic slave trade, in which Britain was central, to the couple after they arrive.

The trip comes just weeks after Prince William and his wife Catherine, the duchess of Cambridge, took part in a similar trip that was widely considered a PR disaster for the royal family.

Images like this, of Prince William and Kate Middleton shaking hands with children behind a fence in Trench Town, were criticised

Dorbrene O’Marde, chairman of the government-appointed commission, told a local radio programme: “Essentially, it supports the positions taken by other...people as far as the issue of reparation is concerned - the absence of an apology from the Crown, both as family and as an institution, for their role in the enslavement of African people in the slave trade and in the slavery of African people.”

Saint Lucia’s National Reparations Commission (NRC), also appointed by the government, said “royal expressions of sorrow” regarding slavery are not enough and is demanding a full apology from the crown.

In a statement seen by The Independent, the group suggested that Britain is refusing to make amends for past atrocities because of a lack of desire to be accountable and called upon Caribbean nation leaders to lobby Buckingham Palace for reparations.

There have been calls for the Queen to be removed as head of state in some parts of the Caribbean

“Britain, the royal family and the European nations that built empires from off the backs of enslaved Africans are avoiding making full and formal apologies because they still don’t want to plead guilty despite the United Nations declaring Slavery a Crime Against Humanity in 2001 and because they are simply not committed to atonement and repair,” the statement reads.

“The NRC holds that Caricom leaders must now press Buckingham Palace to lead the way with The Queen making the first apology for the royal family’s role in the transatlantic slave trade and urging the British government to follow suit.”

The visit has further been described by some Saint Lucian citizens as an opportunity for the Wessexes to “hear the reparations message and bring it back to London”.

There are some who are calling for the Queen to be removed as head of state. This republican sentiment is as, the NRC acknowledges, more prevalent within Saint Lucia now than ever before.

The Wessexes’ tour faced problems before it even began, as on Thursday it was announced their planned visit to Grenada was abruptly cancelled following consultation with the nation’s government and governor-general.

The change in itinerary comes days after fresh details emerged regarding Britain’s role in the enslavement of Black people in its former colony.

Research commissioned by the Bank of England in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests has revealed that ownership of two plantations and 599 people in Grenada was transferred to the financial institution in the early 1770s.

The Cambridges’ trip was seen by some as a relic of the colonial era

In September, newly-elected Prime Minister of Saint Lucia Philip J. Pierre reportedly called for slavery reparations demands to “be treated with the seriousness and urgency it requires”.

Speaking to world leaders at United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the PM said: “Caribbean countries like ours that were exploited and underdeveloped to finance the development of Europe have put forward a case for Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide and we expect that case to be treated with the seriousness and urgency it deserves.”

Mr Pierre also condemned “the double standards in the international system” in “acknowledging and compensating victims of crimes against humanity”.

Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, wrote to the Master of All Souls College at Oxford University last April, seeking reparations for what now amounts to tens of millions of pounds as a result of the “hard labour” of enslaved people on Antigua and Barbuda.

Prince Edward will no doubt be hoping for a smoother trip than his nephew’s

In a letter sent to the University, the leader stated that a donation to the college from Christopher Codrington III, which established and furnished the College’s its now-renowned library, was largely derived rom the exploitation of enslaved Black people on plantations in Antigua and Barbuda.

Sir John Vickers, the master of All Souls, promptly replied and advised that the college “is investigating academic initiatives in relation to the Codrington legacy”, Caribbean National Weekly reported.

St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves leaders of Caribbean countries to prioritise raising issue of reparations for indigenous peoples and African slaves with their European counterparts .

He said if those conversations do not yield tangible results, then Caricom leaders must explore all legal and political options available to them for redress.

By the end of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s tour of Jamaica, Belize and the Bahamas last month, both of the former countries indicated intentions to become a republic. This followed numerous protests and calls for reparations.

The Wessexes have reportedly revised their schedule to avoid “PR mistakes” following criticism levied at Prince William and Kate.

The Queen is sovereign of 14 Commonwealth realms including the UK.

Buckingham Palace has been approached for comment.

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