The whole point of sending the Earl and Countess of Wessex on a Caribbean Tour was that Edward and Sophie are boring and they aren’t important enough to be controversial. Their Caribbean Tour was originally supposed to be a whirlwind tour of Saint Lucia, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda. All to celebrate the Struggle Jubbly, seventy years of Queen Elizabeth II on the throne. The Wessexes were said to be keen to learn from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s colonialist mess during their Flop Tour one month ago. But it looks like the boring-ass Wessexes are going to have a messy, controversial tour too. First, they dropped Grenada from the tour and only told people yesterday (their tour starts today). Then it turns out that all of the countries they’re visiting are pretty mad at Britain, the royal family, and the British/royal history in the slave trade.
A royal charm offensive to celebrate the Queen’s 70-year reign in four Caribbean countries has run into trouble before it starts today. As the monarch celebrated her 96th birthday, Buckingham Palace was yesterday forced to announce the Earl and Countess of Wessex have pulled out of visiting one of their destinations, Grenada, after an extraordinary dispute over the planned programme. Sources said Grenada’s Government had asked for the Wessexes’ visit to be called off after officials complained that Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie, were only going to spend a few hours there during their week-long tour.
One said: “There were concerns it was going to be very expensive for taxpayers in Grenada and they were only coming for eight hours.” Others said it was felt the couple’s tour would fail to achieve its twin objectives – to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and to showcase the islands visited.
Their tour, which starts in Saint Lucia today, will now take them to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda. The root of the latest problem is they are using Saint Lucia as a base and only travelling to the other island nations on day trips.
Their plans had already been revised after the Cambridge’s tour of Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas ran into trouble. Prince William and Kate faced controversies over the monarchy, calls for reparations and apologies for slavery and accusations that the royals represented a bygone era of colonialism. The problems on that tour are set to change future royal visits. And Palace officials had tried to remove engagements from the Wessexes’ tour that risked provoking similar controversy.
Edward and Sophie are prepared for some difficult situations. Campaigners calling for Britain and the Royals to pay reparations for their part in the slave trade plan to present a letter demanding compensation during their visit to Antigua.
Dorbrene O’Marde, chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission, said there had been an “absence of an apology from the Crown…for their role in the enslavement of African people”.
Meanwhile Antigua’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne has called for his country – and the other seven Caribbean nations where the Queen is head of state – to replace the monarchy with elected home-born presidents. When the Cambridges visited Jamaica, Mr Browne said the country was right to signal its intention to replace the monarchy. He also told Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner that cutting ties with the Queen was an aspiration of all independent Caribbean countries. He said: “We have individuals who can serve as presidents of our respective countries and I believe that each country within the Commonwealth Caribbean all aspire to become a republic.”
In Grenada, the main opposition party wants to end the monarchy.
So now sources say that the Grenada leg of the tour was canceled because the Wessexes were only going to spend eight hours there anyway and that was kind of insulting? Which… I agree, it is insulting. I think it’s both though – the Wessexes were just going to breeze in for a few hours AND Grenada is justifiably angry about reparations and British involvement in the slave trade. And St. Lucia is mad that they’re just being used as a base from which the Wessexes will do fly-bys basically. And then Antigua wants to cancel the monarchy and everyone wants reparations.
The Independent had a story about how Saint Lucia will be presenting the Wessexes with a demand for a full apology from the crown – an apology for slavery. And not just some meek “royal expression of sorrow.” Saint Lucians want the Wessexes to “hear the reparations message and bring it back to London”. There’s a rising republican (anti-monarchy) faction within Saint Lucia too.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.