charm offensive

William and Kate’s Caribbean tour offers never-ending cringe

To mark Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, have been dispatched on an eight-day tour of several Caribbean members of the Commonwealth.

Because of the pandemic, this is the first major Royal Tour in a couple of years. It also comes after increased calls to denounce the historic legacy of slavery and the widespread Black Lives Matters protests that erupted in the summer of 2020.

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As such, the optics of ultra-privileged members of the British royal family touring some of the UK’s former colonies were always going to be tricky.

True to form, William and Kate’s so-called charm offensive—hoping to persuade the countries concerned not to ditch the Queen as head of state in the wake of Barbados doing so last year—has thrown up plenty of cringe-worthy and awkward moments.

Let’s walk through some of them and some online reactions.

1. The Royal couple were forced to cancel their first engagement in Belize last Sunday on day one of the tour. Their helicopter had been scheduled to land on a soccer field in Indian Creek, an indigenous Maya village in southern Belize. Local villagers staged a protest to complain they hadn’t been consulted about it. The villagers are also in a land dispute with Fauna & Flora International, a conservation charity the Prince supports.

2. When the tour moved on to Jamaica, protestors gathered outside the British High Commission in Kingston, holding banners with the phrase “seh yuh sorry”, a patois phrase urging Britain to apologize for its colonial legacy.

3. William and Kate slap drums in Trench Town, Jamaica after visiting the former home of Bob Marley.

4. Kate and William brush fingers with Jamaican locals through a wire fence.

5. The Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, meets the couple, and in front of TV cameras, boldly tells them we no longer need you: “We are moving on. We intend to … fulfill our true ambitions and destiny as an independent, developed, prosperous country.”

Jamaica is due to have an independence referendum later this year, with those calling for independence wanting to ditch the Queen as head of state within two years if the public agrees.

6. At an official dinner on Wednesday night in Jamaica, William expressed “profound sorrow” at “abhorrent” slavery and echoed comments made previously by his father, Prince Charles, by saying it “stains” British history.

However, he stopped short of saying “sorry” on behalf of the Royal Family’s role in the slave trade or addressing calls for reparations.

7. Before the couple’s arrival yesterday in the Bahamas, the country’s national reparations committee issues a strongly worded statement, saying, “We are not beholden to the British monarchy in any way and we do not owe them a debt of gratitude for anything – not for our culture, religion, or system of governance.

“Instead the monarchy has looted and pillaged our land and our people for centuries, leaving us struggling with underdevelopment, left to pick up the pieces.”

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It should be noted that in many places, the royal couple have been welcomed by cheering crowds. Also, much of what they’ve done on tour would have been at the invitation of the host countries. And if we were being extremely generous, the whole tour has highlighted the monarchy’s involvement with the slave trade and the legacy of colonialism, which is never a bad thing.

However, for some in Britain’s more right-leaning media, there’s only one possible person to blame for the tour not going well: Meghan Markle!

Incredulously, gay journalist and broadcaster Dan Wooton, writing in the Daily Mail this week, claimed, “Harry and Meghan have become the pin-ups for [the Commonwealth’s] destruction,” fueling campaigns for the countries to ditch the Royal Family.

The claim led to eye rolls across social media.

William and Kate’s Caribbean tour is set to conclude tomorrow and they are expected to return to the UK for Prince Philip’s memorial service in London next week.