Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex Continue to Face Backlash on Caribbean Royal Tour – PEOPLE


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Queen Elizabeth's youngest child and daughter-in-law visited Antigua and Barbuda on Monday as part of a week-long tour of the Caribbean to mark the monarch's Platinum Jubilee. During a meeting with Antigua and Barbuda's Prime Minister Gaston Browne and his cabinet, Browne told the royal couple that his country intends to become a republic in the future although there were no immediate plans to do so. He also urged them to use their "diplomatic influence" to achieve "reparatory justice" for the island country.

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Browne said he understood that the royal family did not want to involve themselves in "contentious issues," but asked them to "understand these issues... use your diplomatic influence in achieving the reparatory justice that we seek."

"The reality is we have been left and bereft of modern institutions such as universities and medicinal facilities," he added.

Prince William and Kate Middleton also experienced significant backlash during their tour of the Caribbean last month as the rising tide of social and economic justice movements — including calls for slavery reparations and indigenous rights expansion — are rapidly reshaping contemporary views of the monarchy.

Prince Edward

Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Prince Edward

| Credit: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty

The Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission shared an open letter renewing calls for an apology for the role Britain played in the transatlantic slave trade ahead of Prince Edward and Sophie's arrival in the country on Monday.

"It has become common for members of the royal family and representatives of the government of Britain to come to this region and lament that slavery was an 'appalling atrocity,' that it was 'abhorrent,' that 'it should not have happened,' " the open letter stated. "We have heard such from your former Prime Minister David Cameron and most recently from your brother, the Prince of Wales, and your nephew, Prince William, but such sentiments did not convey new knowledge to us."

Prime Minister of Antigua

Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda meets Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Prince Edward

| Credit: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty

The letter noted that the British royal family continues to "live in splendour, pomp and wealth attained through the proceeds of the crimes."

"We know that the British Crown, both as royal family and as institution, is historically documented as an active participant in the largest crimes against humanity of all time," it said.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex speak with schoolchildren at The Botanical Gardens

Sophie and Prince Edward

| Credit: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

The letter called for the U.K. and the other countries of Europe to partner in a constructive strategy "to meet the social and economic development gaps in the region, those imposed through slavery and colonialism and those that are perpetuated through the incredibly unjust existing neocolonial international order which Europe and the United States champions."

Edward and Sophie also faced criticism after their visit to St. Lucia on Friday, where they met with the country's Prime Minister Philip Pierre. In a traditional gift exchange, Pierre presented Prince Edward and Sophie with a watercolor painting depicting a sea turtle.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Philip Pierre, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia present gifts to each other during a reception on day one of their Platinum Jubilee Royal Tour of the Caribbean

Sophie and Prince Edward

| Credit: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Prince Edward and Sophie gifted Pierre with a framed photo of themselves, which they had signed. Although it's commonplace for royals to present signed photos while on foreign tours, the royal couple's gift was criticized on social media for being tone-deaf amid a royal tour that is being met with protests and calls for slavery reparations.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Philip Pierre, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia present gifts to each other during a reception on day one of their Platinum Jubilee Royal Tour of the Caribbean

Sophie and Prince Edward

| Credit: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Prince Edward and Sophie will visit several countries during their tour. However, it was announced just one day ahead of their departure for the tour that Grenada was removed from the schedule.

"In consultation with the Government of Grenada and on the advice of the Governor General, The Earl and Countess of Wessex's visit to Grenada has been postponed," Buckingham Palace said in a statement. "The Earl and Countess hope to visit at a later date."

There is speculation that Prince Edward and Sophie only planned to visit Grenada for a few hours, and the country didn't feel the short visit was worth their resources and taxpayer money — but it comes at a time when a number of Caribbean countries are re-examining their relationship with the monarchy.

Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Antigua and Barbuda are all part of the Commonwealth of Nations, made up of 54 countries. They are all also Commonwealth realms, meaning they have Queen Elizabeth as their monarch and head of state.

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Protests in Jamaica on March 22, 2022 as Prince William and Kate Middleton tour the Caribbean.

| Credit: RICARDO MAKYN/AFP via Getty Images

However, many Commonwealth countries have expressed interest in becoming independent republics with their own heads of state. Barbados was the most recent realm to become a republic in 2021, with Sandra Mason — who previously served as governor-general — as president. The Queen sent a note of congratulations to Barbados' new president, while Prince Charles attended the ceremony that removed her as head of state.

While Prince William and Kate Middleton received warm welcomes in Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas, there were also protests staged during their Caribbean tour. William, 39, and Kate, 40, were forced to cancel one of the first outings in Belize — they planned to visit a cocoa farm in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, but that was scrapped after villagers staged a protest about colonialism and indigenous last rights tied to a charity supported by William.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attend the inaugural Commissioning Parade

Prince William and Kate Middleton

| Credit: Karwai Tang/WireImage

"Foreign tours are an opportunity to reflect. You learn so much. What is on the minds of Prime Ministers. The hopes and ambitions of school children. The day-to-day challenges faced by families and communities," William said. "I know that this tour has brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future. In Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas, that future is for the people to decide upon. But we have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with communities in all three countries, understanding more about the issues that matter most to them."

He continued, "Catherine and I are committed to service. For us that's not telling people what to do. It is about serving and supporting them in whatever way they think best, by using the platform we are lucky to have. It is why tours such as this reaffirm our desire to serve the people of the Commonwealth and to listen to communities around the world. Who the Commonwealth chooses to lead its family in the future isn't what is on my mind. What matters to us is the potential the Commonwealth family has to create a better future for the people who form it, and our commitment to serve and support as best we can."

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