'They must pay': William and Kate face more slavery controversy in Bahamas

25 March 2022, 09:18 | Updated: 25 March 2022, 18:11

William and Kate are embroiled in more slavery controversy
William and Kate are embroiled in more slavery controversy. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Prince William and Kate have ended up in another row over past royal ties to slavery in their final leg of the Caribbean tour.

Their trips to Belize, Jamaica and now the Bahamas have all been greeted with protests over the slave trade's legacy.

While warmly greeted by dignitaries and the public when they arrived on Thursday night, the Cambridges have also drawn calls for apologies and reparations.

A group called the National Reparations Committee said the royals "can no longer ignore the devastation of their heritage".

Read more: Kate and Wills' farewell to Jamaica in Land Rover echoes Queen's trip from bygone era

Read more: William and Kate welcomed to Jamaica despite protests and calls for slavery apology

Despite the controversy the royal couple have been going about their engagements on the trip.

On Friday the Duchess of Cambridge addressed schoolchildren about the challenges they had faced during the pandemic.

"The pandemic has taken you away from your classrooms and your friends and learning from home has had its challenges," she told an assembly at the Sybil Strachan Primary School in Nassau.

"That is why it is so wonderful that after nearly two years away, you have recently returned to school and been reunited with your teachers and friends again."

She said she thought it was the "simple things in life that bring the most joy: playing together, chatting to your friends at school, eating meals together, listening to each other's stories".

She added they were "thrilled" to be in the Bahamas, "a country that made us feel at home as soon as we set foot on its soil".

She added: "If you are a child growing up in this country today it feels to me like you are very blessed indeed."

But not all aspects of the trip have been as positive.

A letter from the National Reparations Committee called on the pair to acknowledge their wealth was "built on the back of our ancestors".

"They and their family of royals and their government must acknowledge that their diverse economy was built on the backs of our ancestors," said the letter.

"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 went on: "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?"

After being forced to cancel a trip to a farm in Belize following protests, and demonstrations at the British High Commission in Jamaica, the Duke of Cambridge spoke about slavery in a speech.

He stopped short of an apology but said: "I want to express my profound sorrow. Slavery was abhorrent.

"And it should never have happened.

"While the pain runs deep, Jamaica continues to forge its future with determination, courage and fortitude."

But he was accused of being tone-deaf when, amid protests over the legacy of slavery and the royals, he was pictured greeting Jamaicans through a wire fence.

The politically tricky trip also saw leading Jamaican politicians, including the prime minister, Andrew Holness, mentioning the prospect of Jamaica doing away with the monarchy and becoming a republic.