Slavery 'was abhorrent and should never have happened' William says after protests

24 March 2022, 05:52

Prince William spoke out against slavery
Prince William spoke out against slavery. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Will Taylor

Prince William addressed slavery as "abhorrent" as he continues his Caribbean tour that has been punctuated with protests.

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The Duke of Cambridge has been warmly greeted by dignitaries in Belize and Jamaica but faced demonstrations in both countries amid calls for the royals to apologise over the slave trade.

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

He did not directly say sorry, 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".

As he was hosted by the Governor General of Jamaica, Sir Patrick Linton Allen, who works as the Queen's representative, the duke referred to when Prince Charles visited Barbados to watch it transition from the monarchy to a republic.

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He said: "I strongly agree with my father, the Prince of Wales, who said in Barbados last year that the appalling atrocity of slavery forever stains our history."

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.

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Prince William 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.

"The strength and shared sense of purpose of the Jamaican people, represented in your flag and motto, celebrate an invincible spirit.

"It is this same spirit that spurred on the Windrush generation, who came to the United Kingdom to help rebuild after the Second World War.

"We are forever grateful for the immense contribution that this generation and their descendants have made to British life, which continues to enrich and improve our society."

Protesters gathered over two days as the Cambridges visited Jamaica.

A demonstration broke out on Tuesday at the British High Commission and on Wednesday, as William and Kate visited a military event near Montego Bay, about a dozen people from the Rastafarian community called for reparations from the royals.

Ras Iyah V, of the Rastafari Nyahbinghi community, said: "We are here to protest against any British monarchy descendant coming to Jamaica without being prepared to apologise for slavery and colonialism.

"We can only forgive people who acknowledge that what they did was wrong and are willing to repair the breach of the wrongs they have committed."

He added: "And today the British monarchy has a lot of African artefacts in their possession - they still bathe in the wealth that was extracted out of the blood, sweat and tears and lives of our people and we have never been compensated for any form of enslavement."

The royal couple was also mocked for a "tone deaf" photo of them shaking hands with children through a wire fence.

William and Kate are due to leave Jamaica on Thursday and travel to the Bahamas.