Poor old Queen Elizabeth II (or Queen Gqeberha, as some salty locals call her because of Port Elizabeth’s name change). This was meant to be a triumphant year, marking her Platinum Jubilee (70 years on the throne). Instead of basking in her subjects’ adoration, though, the Queen is being fired by several countries that vividly remember how badly they were treated by the British Empire. Now her grandson Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are not having a jolly old time on the heir’s Commonwealth tour in the Caribbean. The two were forced to cancel one of their first engagements in Belize on Saturday after indigenous people at Indian Creek village took issue with the royals’ helicopter landing on their land. They fared no better in Jamaica: instead of rum cocktails, they were greeted by demonstrators calling on the Royal family to pay reparations and apologise for its role in the slave trade and its ill-treatment of Jamaicans. (In a speech at a dinner yesterday with Jamaican dignitaries, William echoed his father Prince Charles’s previous condemnation of slavery, saying: “I want to express my profound sorrow. Slavery was abhorrent. And it should never have happened.”)
The tour hasn’t been entirely a wash-out. The Queen remains a popular and even beloved figure among many ordinary people in the Caribbean and William and Kate were generally received like rockstars. But it’s clear that something is shifting in the region’s attitude to its former colonisers. Jamaica, like the Bahamas, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, is still under the British Monarchy – Queen Elizabeth is their head of state. The royal tour is a “charm offensive” to dissuade these countries from following Barbados in ditching the Queen and becoming a republic. That ship may have sailed; reports say Jamaica has already taken a step down the republic road.
This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 24 March 2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.