Prince William and Catherine Cambridge’s tour of Belize, Jamaica, and The Bahamas is not going the way they and the royal team had hoped. The hope, of course, was that this would be all sunshine and smiles and cute photo opportunities, and some good outfits. Definitely no controversy.
Well, it was controversial from the get. Will and Kate were protested in Belize. There were reports that there were even bigger protests being planned in Jamaica and that is indeed what happened yesterday as there was a demonstration outside the British High Commission calling for reparations. On top of that, there’s now this:
Jamaica to Begin Process of Removing Queen as Head of State After Will and Kate's Tour https://t.co/m9VmiHDMDo— Harper's Bazaar (@harpersbazaarus) March 22, 2022
Also, um, have you seen the photos? It’s the context of the situation that’s making these photos so … uncomfortable. Because the discussion that’s currently happening around Will and Kate’s tour is about colonialism. About William’s ancestors and the history of British oppression. About how the British empire came to power, in part by enslaving people and using them in the colonies to build wealth. So it’s the pictures IN COMBINATION with the conversation. With the headlines. Take a look:
Why did they think this was a good look? pic.twitter.com/cyQggi08eg— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) March 23, 2022
Like I’m sure Will and Kate weren’t like, oh, you know what would be great? If we took photos with Jamaicans, separated by a metal fence with us on one side and them on the other – and wouldn’t that be great to segregate?! Of course not. But that is the read right now as, over the last few days, with them in the Caribbean, it’s clear that their presence hasn’t been as overwhelmingly welcomed as they might have expected. There was once a time when pictures like this would have been accompanied by a headline like “Will and Kate greeted with enthusiasm by Jamaican youth!”
Now? News agencies are using the pictures with these headlines instead:
The British empire controlled Jamaica for more than 300 years and forced hundreds of thousands of African slaves to toil the island under brutal conditions https://t.co/sXlYDgF1T7— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 23, 2022
That shot, with the outstretched arm and Kate’s body leaning away and the caption, it’s mortifying. The photo editor who chose that photo here… I’d love to know their reaction when they were given the assignment of having to find a picture to go with the story and then seeing this particular picture.
Even PEOPLE Magazine, usually right up Will and Kate’s asses, can’t put a positive spin on the Cambridge tour – this is their latest cover:
So… it’s a mess. A MESS. We’re at the halfway point of this tour and William, Kate, and the royal communications team must be in a constant five alarm panic right now behind the scenes. Because they clearly did not see this coming. Which means they either didn’t do their research or they ignored the research and decided it wouldn’t be a problem and now it’s a problem and they’re in crisis mode. And in case you missed it, these people aren’t great in a crisis! They’ve bungled multiple crisis issues over the last couple of years from Harry and Meghan to Andrew to royal COVID infections and now this…their two ostensible superstars, on whose shoulders the British royal family was supposed to be able to depend, now find themselves in a firestorm over colonialism and slavery.
Word is William is expected to address the situation at an event tonight. It remains to be seen just how specific he gets but there may be limitations to what he can say, because of royal protocol, that bizarre set of standards that’s supposed to protect the royal institution but in moderns times can often do the opposite and hinder them from progress.
Back in November, when Barbados became a republic and broke up with the British monarchy in the presence of Prince Charles, in his tribute to the people of Barbados, Charles said in his speech that:
"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. Emancipation, self-government and independence were your way-points. Freedom, justice and self-determination have been your guides. Your long journey has brought you to this moment, not as your destination, but as a vantage point from which to survey a new horizon.”
At best, this qualifies as a mention, and a pretty general one, with no mention of how his own family participated in – initiated in fact – those atrocities. Because doing that jeopardises the validity of the institution. It would be like saying, “Yes, we stole it”, and the natural response to that would be, “Well then give it back”. In British royal terms, giving it back basically undermines their whole identity.
Charles will be king, he’s the next in line. So to go back to royal protocol, can his son actually go further than he did? If we’re observing the order of things (and they always do, these royals), the most William would do is match his father’s sentiments, but to exceed them? To acknowledge his ancestors’ role in the oppression of generations? And thereby recognise that his very existence was the result of hundreds of years of pain, trauma, bloodshed, and theft? Can he go there when his father, the future king, has never?
We’ll find out tonight when he makes his remarks – and those remarks will likely be a top headline tomorrow: “Prince William addresses history of slavery”, not exactly the kind of news story they would have been planning for before embarking on this tour. And whatever he says, it’s not going to be enough to turn this sh-tshow around.