The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
To mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Prince William and Kate have been occupying their time with a tour around the Caribbean in order to strengthen the relations of the Commonwealth. This however does not seem to be the result of their trip. Instead, the public are being shown photos reminiscent of the days of colonialism, whilst the natives of these countries are demanding their rightful independence. Could this trip be the start of the Commonwealth’s downfall?
The trip has shined a light on the many voices calling for slaver reparations and reparations over the Windrush scandal. The couple may have intended for the tour to provide positive publicity for the royal family but instead, the tour has indirectly highlighted voices that have been silenced for too long. When, the couple arrived in Belize, they were immediately met with protests prompted by a dispute over land that included a charity that the future king is a patron for. The troubles did not stop there for the royal family, with the Jamaican Prime Minister telling the couple that they would like for their country to be ‘moving on’ from the Commonwealth and becoming a Republic. Similarly, in the Bahamas, a government committee has urged the Royal Family to issue ‘a full and formal apology for their crimes against humanity.’
It is no secret the Commonwealth is built on the foundations of colonisation. Velma McClymont, a Jamaican writer and former Caribbean studies academic, stated, ‘My grandparents could trace generations back to slavery, but they died believing Jamaica was fully independent. Imagine, 60 years later and it’s still an extension of the British empire’. Jamaica won independence in 1962, which creates the question: why are they still in the Commonwealth? Was Jamaica ever really granted independence if they still belong in the Commonwealth? And will they ever be independent in the Commonwealth? Clearly, a loud majority of Jamaican people do not think so.
Another PR disaster for the couple were the photos they posed for. What once was the perfect photo opportunities is now outdated and clearly insensitive. One such example is of Prince William and Kate on one side of a wire gate, holding the hands of Jamaican children, on the other side of the gate. This clear divide between the royals and the children has an undertone of racial superiority, with the children being presented like criminals behind a wire fence.
Another photo presents the couple in a land rover, during a military parade. The couple can be seen dressed in white, waving to onlookers. This photo is a throwback to colonialist days and is distasteful as well as outdated. McClymont said on the matter, ‘There was another photo opportunity, and rather presumptuous to assume that Jamaican people were suddenly going to welcome William and his wife with open arms.’ However, this is being presented in many British news sources and tabloids, with The Sun publishing ‘Kate dazzles on Jamaican Tour’ on the front of one of their issues.
Phillip Murphy, a professor at the University of London and former director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies states: ‘I think the Foreign office is a bit naïve, and it doesn’t have much institutional memory anymore. There are profound sensitives around the legacies of colonialism and slavery and around the royal presence in the Caribbean, and sometimes you get the feeling that the Foreign doesn’t quite get it.’ Murphy also pointed out the Royals inconsideration of the tensions caused in Commonwealth relations by the recent Black Lives Matter movement and the accusations of racial prejudice against Meghan Markle. This was also not helped by the little support provided by the Commonwealth to support Jamaica during the pandemic, such as unequal vaccination distribution. Jamaica is an island of 3 million people and the pandemic resulted in 3000 deaths, 12,000 kids out of school and an economic crash. Jamaican lawyer, Jennifer Housen also stated that the fact the UK revoked visa-free access for Jamaicans in 2003 has meant ‘the relationship [between the commonwealth and Jamaica] is pointless.’
As a result of this scathing backlash, Prince William has spoken out, saying he wishes for a ‘better future’ for the Commonwealth and that the tour was an ‘opportunity to reflect’. He and Kate are dedicated to ‘serving and supporting’ the Commonwealth, ‘not telling them what to do.’ He further stated, ‘And with Jamaica celebrating 60 years of independence this year, and Belize celebrating 40 years of independence last year, I want to say this: we support with pride and respect your decisions about your future.’ However, actions speak louder than words, and we are yet to see the Royals begin discussions of freeing Jamaica from the Commonwealth.
In response to William’s promises, Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu said, ‘This thread shows Prince William is disingenuous and demonstrates zero intention to Reconciliation/ Truth and Justice for enslaved/ colonised nations. He’s lacking in good judgement on racial and social injustice and his ‘service’ feels performative.’ With this clear conflict between the people of the Commonwealth and the Royal family, could this be the end of the Commonwealth, or shall it bring light to the true nature of the relationship?