Prince Edward and Sophie Wessex cancel part of Caribbean tour amid slavery backlash

22 April 2022, 09:26

The Grenada leg of the Earl and Countess of Wessex's tour of the Caribbean has been postponed
The Grenada leg of the Earl and Countess of Wessex's tour of the Caribbean has been postponed. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

The Grenada leg of the Earl and Countess of Wessex's tour of the Caribbean has been cancelled after consultations with the Governor General of the island.

The royal couple are set to kick off their trip to the Caribbean today in Saint Lucia as part of celebrations to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.

But Buckingham Palace confirmed this morning that Prince Edward and Sophie Wessex would not be visiting Grenada as first planned.

A statement reads: "In consultation with the government of Grenada and on the advice of the governor general, the Earl and Countess of Wessex’s visit to Grenada has been postponed.

"The Earl and Countess hope to visit at a later date."

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Ahead of the visit, the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission has written an open letter criticising the Royal Family for past comments on slavery.

"It has become common for members of the Royal Family and representatives of the government of Britain to come to this region and lament that slavery was an 'appalling atrocity', that it was 'abhorrent', that 'it should not have happened'," the letter says.

"We hear the phony sanctimony of those who came before you that these crimes are a 'stain on your history'.

"For us, they are the source of genocide and of continuing deep international injury, injustice and racism. We hope you will respect us by not repeating the mantra. We are not simpletons."

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Setting out the aims of the tour in a press release, Buckingham Palace said the couple "will meet communities, local entrepreneurs and craftspeople, and young people, in celebration of the culture, future and vibrancy of the islands.

"While visiting Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Earl of Wessex will meet athletes in training for the Commonwealth Games, to be held in Birmingham this summer.

"Meanwhile, the countess will speak to women in leadership roles about the community’s response to the eruption of the La Soufriere Volcano.

"In Antigua and Barbuda, the Earl and Countess of Wessex will hear more about the importance of sport in the community."

The statement adds: "Their royal highnesses will meet some of the West Indies’ legendary cricketers, and Antigua’s national rowing teams."

"The Earl will conduct an investiture on behalf of Her Majesty, and their royal highnesses will attend a service to mark the Queen’s seventy-year reign."

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It comes after Prince William and Kate's recent trip to the region was criticised for being insensitive about previous colonial ties.

British monarchs supported or profited from it in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Elizabeth I was involved with John Hawkins, one of the first British slave traders, while Charles II encouraged its expansion.

Along with James II, his brother, they invested private money the Royal African Company, which transported Africans over the Atlantic, and later slavery abolitionists were opposed by the Duke of Clarence, who later became William IV.

The Cambridge's tour in March was punctuated with protests, forcing Prince William to addressed slavery during a speech where be branded it as "abhorrent".

The Duke did not directly say sorry for the British Monarchy profiting from the slave trade , but instead expressed "profound sorrow" and said "it should never have happened".

His comments came as the Jamaican prime minister Andrew Holness prompted speculation over whether his country would ditch the monarchy, having told William and Kate that the nation was "moving on" and intended to "fulfil our true ambitions and destiny as an independent, developed, prosperous country".