Prince William and Kate Middleton boarded a plane back to the UK on Saturday night, wrapping up an eight-day tour of the Caribbean laden with protests and talks of realms moving toward republicanism and replacing the Queen as head of state. The tour spurred discussions about the future of royal visits and what exactly went wrong for the couple.
“Dubbed a charm offensive, there’s a consensus that the trip lacked charm and was more offensive than anything else,” Nadine White, a race correspondent and columnist for the UK’s Independent, told HuffPost over the weekend. “The Cambridges’ tour highlighted, as ever, just how out of touch the country’s ruling class is with the realities of Black people — and specifically those who are descendants of enslaved Africans.”
White added that the “tone-deaf excursion” was a “royal mess,” filled with constant protests, repeated calls for slavery reparations and offensive optics.
The Cambridges and their team also provoked widespread outrage over images that reminded people of colonialism, including widely panned shots of the couple greeting children through a fence, standing with a statue of Bob Marley and recreating a moment at the Caribbean Military Academy parade from Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s 1953 trip to Jamaica:
Peter Hunt, a former BBC correspondent, said last week on Twitter that the tour “is a reminder of the price the royals are still paying for purging good advisors in 2017.” Hunt tweeted out his commentary alongside an image of the duke and duchess that he said “conjures up a colonial past at odds with a republic bound Jamaica.”
“They’ll never do a royal tour like this again,” he added.
Yet, amid the continued criticism of the tour, Lisa Hanna, a four-term member of Jamaica’s Parliament and the shadow minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, spoke to HuffPost last week about the importance of the trip for the royals themselves.
“I think the royal tour is important for a number of reasons,” Hanna said, explaining that the royals “have a unique opportunity to assign their own issues and advocacy.”
“It is my desire that they use this visit to stir their own emotions, and perhaps their thoughts, as they ascend to leadership,” she continued. “They will refine what their perspective of the monarchy ought to be with an eye toward a fairer and more just global society by looking at reparations, reparative justice, by looking at atonement for many years of what slavery did to our societies in this continent and other continents, and what they did to our people.”
While the Duke of Cambridge acknowledged slavery during one of his speeches on the trip, he didn’t broach reparations. He later acknowledged the discord that surrounded the couple’s trip, both on the ground and on social media, in a statement on Saturday as the royals departed for home.
“I know that this tour has brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future. In Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas, that future is for the people to decide upon,” the duke said. “Catherine and I are committed to service. For us, that’s not telling people what to do. It is about serving and supporting them in whatever way they think best, by using the platform we are lucky to have.”
On Monday, the Daily Mail reported that there were changes underway for the Cambridges, as insiders said Kate “will do more solo work overseas without Prince William after their tour of the Caribbean,” and that there are more changes to follow.
“It comes as the Cambridges vowed to rip up the rule book and pursue ‘The Cambridge Way’ after their difficult visit to Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas,” the Daily Mail wrote, adding that William “held crisis talks with senior aides on his week-long tour around the Caribbean, telling advisers he had to add his own voice and confront issues of slavery reparations and anti monarchist sentiment.”
“The couple are said to have hardened their view the Monarchy must be ‘agile’ to survive and thrive after their week-long tour was hit with protests,” the publication added. “They are understood to be ready to abandon the Queen and Prince Charles’s ‘never complain, never explain’ mantra in future.”
It remains to be seen whether the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will flip the switch on future royal tours and whether they will speak openly about slavery, reparative justice and Britain’s role in colonization.
Regardless of how talks around republicanism and the future of Commonwealth visits develop, White said there is no stopping what’s already in motion.
“In any case, the reparations movement has been gaining momentum and is enjoying unprecedented legitimacy — something that many are encouraged by,” White said. “In the wake of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and an increasing awareness of how painful legacies correlate with the present, the days ahead will be very revealing indeed.”