William says future of monarchy in Caribbean ‘for people to decide’
The Duke of Cambridge has acknowledged the monarchy’s days in Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas may be numbered as he stated the future “is for the people to decide upon”.
William and Kate visited the three nations during their Caribbean tour, but by their next royal trip the Queen may have been replaced as head of state by a homegrown figurehead.
In a statement reflecting on the end of their tour, the future king also emphasised who the Commonwealth chooses to be its leader “isn’t what is on my mind”, but what concerned him was its potential to “create a better future for the people who form it”.
He stressed that he and his wife Kate were “committed to service” and saw their role as supporting people, “not telling them what to do”.
The statement might be interpreted as a response to days of criticism the couple have faced during their eight-day tour, from accusations Belize locals were not consulted about a royal engagement to calls for slavery reparations from the monarchy in Jamaica.
Claims were also made the couple were “tone deaf” after images were taken of the Cambridges shaking hands with Kingston crowds behind a wire mesh fence, and images of the royals riding in the back of a Land Rover were denounced as harking back to colonial days.
Media coverage of the couple’s tour has been split with some emphasising what they described as the positive impact of their presence in the Caribbean while other have described as a “PR disaster” the fence photograph.
The duke said in his statement: “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.
“But we have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with communities in all three countries, understanding more about the issues that matter most to them.
“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.
“It is why tours such as this reaffirm our desire to serve the people of the Commonwealth and to listen to communities around the world.
“Who the Commonwealth chooses to lead its family in the future isn’t what is on my mind. What matters to us is the potential the Commonwealth family has to create a better future for the people who form it, and our commitment to serve and support as best we can.”
William is destined to be King of Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas when the time comes, but his statement, and a speech he gave on Friday, indicate the future monarch is aware the changing political and cultural landscape may bring this to an end.
During an address televised live in the Bahamas on Friday evening, the duke signalled any decision by the three nations to break away from the British monarchy and become republics would be supported with “pride and respect” by the UK.
Barbados took the historic move of replacing the Queen as head of state in November, and elected its first president during a ceremony witnessed by the Prince of Wales.
William’s comments at the end of the tour are an acknowledgement of forces already in motion, as Jamaica’s prime minister Andrew Holness suggested to the couple his country may be the next to become a republic.
And a minister from Belize’s government told his parliament, a few days after the Cambridges left: “Perhaps it is time for Belize to take the next step in truly owning our independence. But it is a matter that the people of Belize must decide on.”
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