Royals getting it wrong

Young favourites looked a blast from our colonial past

It’s hard to imagine exactly who amongst the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s team of advisors thought it a good idea during the couple’s recent Caribbean tour for a smiling Kate to be pictured touching hands with children gathered on the other side of a tall wire fence. They were in Jamaica, where another photo saw the popular couple, dressed in white, standing waving from the back of an open-top Land Rover during a military parade.

The intention was to give a respectful nod to a similar ride the Queen and Prince Philip took in the same vehicle more than five decades ago. But that was then. Now, in 2022, the image seemed anachronistic and out of place and time. A further photo opportunity saw them smiling self-consciously beside a statue of Bob Marley before, once more for the cameras, attempting to play drums with a group of reggae musicians.

They are undoubtedly an extremely photogenic couple, but oh dear, patronising or what? Their tour also took in Belize and the Bahamas and was billed as an opportunity to celebrate local culture as well as commemorate the Queen’s 70 years as monarch. But there were claims that it was also a calculated attempt to shore up weakening ties between Britain and the Commonwealth countries. The week-long tour did have its successful moments, but also sparked calls for the UK to pay reparations for slavery, highlighted the republican sentiment in increasing numbers of Commonwealth countries and, for many, was more rooted in the past than looking toward the future.

Urgent discussions followed at Buckingham Palace ahead of further visits by royal family members to Caribbean and other Commonwealth nations during this Platinum Jubilee year.

Palace officials confirmed that following the Cambridge’s experience, changes to existing plans were made before Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, set off on their tour to St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda,and St Vincent and the Grenadines, with the Grenada leg postponed.

Princess Anne too has been on the road for the royals, with a visit to Papua New Guinea, where she was warmly welcomed. But despite the family’s best efforts they know the Commonwealth will continue to shrink.

Barbados declared itself a republic last year and both Jamaica and Belize have warned they too plan to drop the Queen as their Head of State and become republics. Other Commonwealth countries in the region are also considering the possibility of doing the same and further afield, many Canadians are voicing the opinion they no longer want to be under the supervision of a monarchy.

These recent experiences prove without doubt that royal visits to Commonwealth nations need to move with the times, and that traditions and patronising words are no longer enough. At the end of his tour, Prince William said in a speech, “Relationships evolve, friendships endure.” With feelings running high as some Caribbean countries depart the Commonwealth, it remains to be seen whether all those “friendships” do indeed endure.

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