The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have flown into another storm in The Bahamas as islanders piled more pressure on the Royal Family over slave trade reparations amid a growing movement on Caribbean islands to remove the Queen as head of state.
The couple landed in Nassau last night after a bumpy visit to Jamaica that sparked protests and allowed prime minister Andrew Holness to further his campaign to become a republic. A visit in Belize this week had to be rearranged over fears it could be disrupted.
As they touched down at Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau, Bahamas, to begin the final leg of their tour, Prince William and Kate were met by members of the military and eight-year-old local resident Aniah Moss, who presented the couple with a bouquet of flowers in front of the Royal Air Force Voyager plane.
They then met country’s Prime Minister Philip Davis, who gifted them a portrait and said their visit to the island was ‘long overdue’. As Kate wore duck egg blue to match the country’s flag, Mr Davis told them: ‘And our best wishes are sent to the Queen, and congratulations on her Platinum Jubilee. I do not think we will see the same again’, to which William nodded.
Mr Davis, avoided any discussion of independence, and said they talked about climate change, with the future king pledging to ‘do all he can’ to support their work to restore The Bahamas’ coral reefs. Mr Davis said last year that an independence referendum was ‘not on the agenda’ but admitted that could change if voters demand it. But one of his senior ministers said recently it was his ‘life’s work’ to be truly independent from Britain.
And on the eve of the Cambridges’ arrival in The Bahamas, the island nation’s National Reparations Committee called for millions of pounds to be paid in reparations for the British monarchy’s role in slavery.
The incendiary letter read: ‘They and their family of royals and their government must acknowledge that their diverse economy was built on the backs of our ancestors. And then, they must pay. We, the children of those victims, owe it to our ancestors to remember. We owe it to our ancestors to demand a reckoning and to demand accountability, healing, and justice.
‘The Duke and Duchess may not be compelled to make such a declaration during their visit to our shores. They may not be able at this time to speak on behalf of the Queen and their government. However, they can no longer ignore the devastation of their heritage.
The committee added: ‘We, the members of the Bahamas National Reparations Committee (BNRC), recognise that the people of the Bahamas have been left holding the bag for much of the cost of this extravagant trip.
‘Why are we footing the bill for the benefit of a regime whose rise to ‘greatness’ was fuelled by the extinction, enslavement, colonisation, and degradation of the people of this land? Why are we being made to pay again?’
William and Kate’s Caribbean tour to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, billed as a royal charm offensive, has been beset with controversy and helped reignite for republican calls in Jamaica for complete independence from Britain.
There will also be an inquest when they return to London after unfortunate photo calls that led to accusations they were echoing Britain’s colonialist past rather a more down-to-earth future.
Yesterday they were driven in an open-top Land Rover during a military parade in Jamaica that some observers called ‘absolutely awful’. Earlier in the trip there were unfortunate images of the couple greeting children pinned behind tall metal fences.
Professor Rosalea Hamilton, a civil rights campaigner and founding director of the Institute of Law and Economics in Jamaica, told the Mirror: “These unfortunate images are a relic of the past and could have been taken in the 1800s. They signify this young generation is continuing the monarchical traditions of holding one race superior and another inferior’.
William used a speech in Kingston to roundly condemned Britain’s ‘abhorrent’ history of slavery, calling it a ‘stain on our history’ as he expressed his disgust at the ‘appalling atrocity’ that has left such a heavy legacy in the Caribbean island. He expressed his ‘profound sorrow’ that the slave trade had ever happened, although he stopped short of a full apology, which is said to have upset the Jamaican government and its people. One grouop called it ‘tone deaf’. A Jamaican MP said William lacked ‘courage’.