Prince Charles Expresses 'Personal Sorrow' Over 'Slavery's Enduring Impact'

"I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many," the Prince of Wales told Commonwealth leaders.

Prince Charles expressed his “personal sorrow” over “slavery’s enduring impact” in a speech to Commonwealth leaders in Rwanda on Friday.

“I want to acknowledge that the roots of our contemporary association run deep into the most painful period of our history,” the Prince of Wales said at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting opening ceremony in Kigali.

“I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many, as I continue to deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact,” said Charles, heir to the throne.

“If we are to forge a common future that benefits all our citizens, we too must find ways ― new ways ― to acknowledge our past,” he added. “Quite simply, this is a conversation whose time has come.”

Prince Charles speaks on June 24 during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Kigali Convention Centre in Rwanda.
Prince Charles speaks on June 24 during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Kigali Convention Centre in Rwanda.
SIMON MAINA via Getty Images

Charles’ comments echoed a speech he made in Barbados last year at a ceremony celebrating the country’s official designation as a republic and removal of the queen as its head of state.

“The creation of this republic offers a new beginning, but it also marks a point on a continuum, a milestone on the long road you have not only traveled, but which you have built,” Charles said at the time.

“From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.”

In both speeches, Charles did not formally apologize for the British royal family’s involvement in the slave trade, or broach the subject of reparations.

The Prince of Wales speaks as the president of Barbados, Sandra Mason, looks on during the presidential inauguration ceremony on Nov. 30, 2021, in Bridgetown, Barbados.
The Prince of Wales speaks as the president of Barbados, Sandra Mason, looks on during the presidential inauguration ceremony on Nov. 30, 2021, in Bridgetown, Barbados.
Pool via Getty Images

In his remarks on Friday, the Prince of Wales reiterated that it is up to the countries that make up the Commonwealth, some of them former British colonies, to decide how to govern themselves.

“I want to say clearly, as I have said before, that each member’s constitutional arrangement, as republic or monarchy, is purely a matter for each member country to decide,” Charles said. He added that “the benefit of long life brings me the experience that arrangements such as these can change calmly and without rancor.”

During Prince William and Kate Middleton’s controversial Caribbean royal tour in March, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness emphasized that his country “has to become a republic.” A Belize politician also announced that his country would begin talks toward becoming a republic.

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