Prince William and Catherine of House Cambridge left the UK on Saturday for their week-long tour of Belize, Jamaica, and The Bahamas. They’re representing the Queen during the year of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee and ostensibly strengthening the relationship between England the Commonwealth countries they are visiting. And by this point, I think most people are familiar with how these things work – smiles, waves, photo opportunities, a few good outfits… at least that’s what it used to be like.
But the times are changing. Just a few months ago, Barbados broke up with the British crown and established itself as its own republic, with a new (unofficial) Queen: Rihanna. The British royals would be lying if they said they weren’t worried that other countries would follow suit. So to go back to Will and Kate, and their mission in Belize, Jamaica, and The Bahamas, they’re hoping that their visits will so dazzle the people of these nations they’ll want to uphold the status quo, and therefore uphold their own relevance – which is, of course, the whole point of their existence. The British monarchy exists to exist. Every effort is in service of continuity. As you’ve probably heard by now though, the trip did not get off to a good start.
Colonialism Debate and Local Protests Cast Shadow Over Caribbean Tour For Prince William and Duchess Kate https://t.co/GklAwD4UI8— Harperâ€™s BAZAAR (@harpersbazaarus) March 19, 2022
It’s hard to separate colonialism from the British monarchy; they’re OG colonisers, after all. And the British royal family never engages with its colonial past. Remember, it was just a year ago, pretty much around this time, that William said that “We’re very much not a racist family” after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah. So these are not people who even want to have the conversation, a conversation that many around the world have been confronting as we all work to dismantle white supremacy and begin the process of unlearning our collective conditioning from it.
For them, though, confronting white supremacy would mean having to examine their family’s history and the oppression of generations of people in the service of their empire. They got away with the avoidance for a long time, decades if not longer, but that luxury seems to be expiring, especially in Will and Kate’s case, being that they’re younger; it’s one thing to be deferential to the Queen because she’s been around for so long and has an established track record and, well, is almost 100, as opposed to two people in their 40s who may still have to earn that kind of respect. So they’re getting protested. And apparently there are more protests being organised in Jamaica – see thread below.
NEW: A protest is due to take place in #Jamaica on Tuesday as Prince William & Kate visit the country during their royal tour. Organisers have also penned an open letter to the monarchy calling for slavery reparations. More on this soon. #Jamaica60 #AdvocatesNetwork pic.twitter.com/JUYSk1MUTv— Nadine White. (@Nadine_Writes) March 20, 2022
This is obviously not what William, Kate, and their team expected when they decided on this tour. They thought it would be a standard charm offensive – which is how the royals, really, have been coasting by and that may be one of the reasons we’re here: did they get complacent? Did they fail to pay attention to the mood of the public? Did they believe in their own permanence to the point where it’s resulted in their vulnerability?
Because the British monarchy, right now, is about as fragile as it’s ever been. Prince Andrew will forever be associated with a dead rapist pedophile. The Queen is keeping a low profile during her Jubilee year. There are questions about her health. There have ALWAYS been questions about Prince Charles’s popularity – or lack thereof – in comparison to his mother’s. And now his heir is on tour in the Caribbean but so many of the headlines about Will and Kate are focusing on the protests, the kind of publicity they’re most afraid of.
So it’s going to be interesting to watch how the Cambridges pivot. How much effort they put into turning the headlines around. How hard and wide they have to smile, how much they have to dance (mortifyingly badly) and throw up their jazz hands, in order to distract from all the questions about their past, their present, and all the doubts about their future.