Prince William Calls Slavery 'Abhorrent' In Speech: 'Should Never Have Happened'

The Duke of Cambridge also referred to comments his father, Prince Charles, made last year in Barbados about the "appalling atrocity of slavery."
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Prince William expressed his “profound sorrow” when speaking about slavery during a state dinner held by Sir Patrick Allen, the governor-general of Jamaica, on Wednesday.

“I strongly agree with my father, the Prince of Wales, who said in Barbados last year that the appalling atrocity of slavery forever stains our history,” William said in his speech, referencing comments Prince Charles made while attending Barbados’ ceremony to remove his mother, Queen Elizabeth, as head of state in November.

“I want to express my profound sorrow. Slavery was abhorrent. And it should never have happened,” William said, according to video captured by ITV News royal editor Chris Ship. “While the pain runs deep, Jamaica continues to forge its future with determination, courage and fortitude.”

The prince did not formally apologize for Britain’s role in the slave trade, nor did he mention reparations.

William’s comments come at a precarious time for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who have been plagued by protests on their royal tour of the Caribbean during the queen’s Platinum Jubilee year.

After protests over the Cambridges’ presence in Belize, Jamaicans held a demonstration in Kingston at the British High Commission on Tuesday ahead of the royal couple’s arrival. The protest, organized by the Advocates Network, included an open letter that lists “60 reasons for apologies and reparations from Britain and its royal family.”

The Advocates Network released a statement shared with HuffPost on Thursday after William’s speech, saying that his statements were “not an apology” as many outlets claimed, and said that the prince’s “expression of ‘profound sorrow,’ is unacceptable.”

“It is merely an acknowledgement that slavery was abhorrent. A bad thing that all well thinking persons would condemn. There was no responsibility taken,” the statement added. “No call out of centuries of British bloody conquest and plunder. No call out of the dehumanization and exploitation.”

The organization said that William’s speech “whitewashes the abhorrent involvement and enrichment of the monarchy of which the Duke is heir.”

“This ‘tone deaf’ statement echoes the well-crafted words of his father. It does not rise to the level of the formal apology that we deserve,” the group added. “All that it does is to confirm the insensitivity of the Royal family to the plight of Jamaicans today, both here in Jamaica and in Britain.”

A Bahamian organization also released a response to the Cambridges’ impending visit to the Bahamas, asking them to acknowledge and apologize for the British royal family’s role in colonization and to make reparations payments.

The Duchess of Cambridge and Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness watch as Prince William, Duke of Cambridge speaks on stage during a dinner hosted by the Governor General of Jamaica at King's House on March 23.
The Duchess of Cambridge and Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness watch as Prince William, Duke of Cambridge speaks on stage during a dinner hosted by the Governor General of Jamaica at King's House on March 23.
Samir Hussein via Getty Images

On Tuesday, The Independent reported that Jamaica was in the process of removing Queen Elizabeth as the country’s head of state, something Prime Minister Andrew Holness had spoken about in December and that has long been a topic of discussion in the country.

Holness addressed the country’s desire to become a republic during a meeting with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Wednesday.

“There are issues here which are ― as you would know ― unresolved. But your presence here gives an opportunity for those issues to be placed in context, put front and center, and to be addressed in as best we can,” Holness told the royals.

“But Jamaica is, as you would see, a country that is very proud of our history and very proud of what we have achieved,” he told the royals. “And we are moving on. And we intend to attain, in short order, our development goals and fulfill our true ambitions and destiny as an independent, developed, prosperous country.”

While the royals have been criticized for some of their outings and photo opportunities, Lisa Hanna, a four-term member of Jamaica’s Parliament and shadow minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, stressed the significance of their tour of the Caribbean.

“I think the royal tour is important for a number of reasons, particularly against the background of a new social consciousness that has become even more amplified from a younger generation in this region,” Hanna told HuffPost, pointing to the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I think Prince William and Duchess Catherine have a unique opportunity to assign their own issues and advocacy. And certainly, it is my desire that they use this visit to stir their own emotions, and perhaps their thoughts, as they ascend to leadership.”

“They will refine what their perspective of the monarchy ought to be with an eye towards a fairer and more just global society by looking at reparations, reparative justice,” said the politician, who has long advocated for reparations, “by looking at atonement for many years of what slavery did to our societies in this continent, and other continents, and what they did to our people.”

“And I think they have that opportunity, and that is why I think the visit is so important,” Hanna said. “I respect the duchess. I respect the prince. I don’t support the queen being our head of state, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for the queen’s position. But at this time, I want to see a Jamaican as the head of state.”

Hanna added: “I want the next generation to be completely self-reliant and courageous in its bravery, and in their bravery taking Jamaica forward on our own, without feeling that there has to be any intrinsic, or historical reliance on the monarchy.”

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