Prince William and Kate Cambridge’s tour of Belize, Jamaica, and The Bahamas was supposed to be a “charm offensive”, the term used to describe these trips when British royals go abroad and hypnotise the people with their big smiles and good manners. And for over a decade, that’s been the Will and Kate experience which is why they thought they’d show up in the Caribbean for a week of compliments and adulations. And that’s not even close to what really happened, not from the jump.
It started in Belize with a protest and a cancelled event. There followed more protests in Jamaica, an unfortunate photo opportunity, then the Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness telling Will to his face with his whole chest that the country would be breaking up with the crown, Will having to pivot and shoehorn remarks about slavery and colonialism into a speech, and yesterday, on their final day in Jamaica, this picture:
The intention here was to pay tribute to the Queen when she first visited Jamaica in 1953:
Kate Middleton and Prince William Echo Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on Final Outing in Jamaica pic.twitter.com/VhMaVholKn— People (@people) March 24, 2022
But as many of us know by now, and especially as we have over the last few years have had more profound and uncomfortable conversations about implicit and overt bias and privilege and racial inequality, there can often be a gap between intention and impact. In participating in this military parade, Will and Kate’s intention may not have been sinister. The impact of this photo, however, well. The impact of this photo, however, was not congruent with the intent. There are some who looked at the shot of Will and Kate standing on that Land Rover, in the context – I repeat, IN THE CONTEXT – of what’s happened over the last few days, and context is always critical, and once again saw not just a military parade but a colonial parade.
#PrinceWilliam & #kateMiddleton's open-top parade branded 'awful' echo of colonialist past. The row over William & Kate Middleton's 'colonial' parade has led many people to ask whether the royal couple's turbulent Caribbean tour is just a relic of the past.https://t.co/mnncTQr2kF— ðŸ›¡ Royal Reporter (@royal_reporter) March 25, 2022
Again, William and Kate may have intended to honour military personnel and there were members of the Jamaican military who appreciated them being there but given the uproar of the last few days, with British colonialism and slavery dominating the headlines, the point is that this photo at this time did not land the way the Cambridges and their team would have expected it to when this tour was conceived. To go back to the “charm offensive”, they started this thing thinking they’d be serving all kinds of wonderful and delightful looks beamed around the world, resulting in global fawning. Not much fawning happening now, but definitely a lot of side-eye. So it wasn’t exactly a smooth exit out of Jamaica.
And now they’re in The Bahamas, no doubt white-knuckling it for the next two days until they can return home to England. So far, at least at the time of this writing, things have been relatively uncontroversial there, although word is protests have been planned. Even if the Bahamian leg of the tour goes relatively uneventfully though (which is what they want at this point!), it still won’t be enough to save the situation. Overall, this has been a bust. They do still have to stick the dismount, because they certainly don’t want things to get any worse, but there’s no turning this into a win, or even a break-even. Not when you consider that out of the three countries they’re visiting, one used Will and Kate’s visit as an opportunity to firmly declare to a global audience that they intent to quit the Queen. When you arrive with three and come home with only two? It’s a loss no matter how you spin it.
The #RoyalTourCaribbean is a disaster. Terrible optics, overtones of colonialism. Desire to lose the monarchy had risen by 20%in Jamaica over 10 years to 62%. #BLM, #Windrush. The world has changed. But this tour proceeded as if it was 1932 not 2022. Catastrophic. pic.twitter.com/dC5sUeKAr7— Prof Kate Williams ðŸ’™ (@KateWilliamsme) March 25, 2022
How, then, will the British royals handle this loss going forward? At this point, they better be setting up crisis meetings and strategy sessions as soon as William and Kate get back to London. The whole royal tour tradition has to be revisited. Their whole game plan will have to change. If what’s happened this week doesn’t result in a complete systems overhaul, the monarchy cannot survive.