A strongly-worded open letter to the British royal family renewing calls for an apology for the role Britain played in the transatlantic slave trade has been released ahead of Monday’s visit by the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
The Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission had revealed on Wednesday that it was poised to again demand compensation for slavery in sync with Prince Edward and Sophie’s arrival.
The letter claims previous acknowledgements by the royals of the barbaric trade are empty words.
“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 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.
“African people and their descendants – as most of us are – have known such since the middle of the 16th century. We have been on the receiving end of the barbarity. We hear the phony sanctimony of those who came before you that these crimes are a ‘stain on your history’,” the letter stated.
The missive appeals to Prince Edward and the Countess not to repeat such a mantra, noting that the slave trade’s legacy continues to manifest in deep-seated injury and injustice.
It also notes that the 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.
It is due to that role the ‘Crown’ played that the question was raised in the document, as to why a “sincere” apology has not been issued by anyone in the royal family, accepting their part in the slave trade.
“Respectfully, we ask a few questions and we hope that you will provide answers during one of the addresses you are scheduled to make here or in any other nation in your ‘goodwill-don’t-leave-us’ tour,” the letter continued.
“Why is it so hard for you to sincerely apologise for your nation’s role in slavery, like decent human beings do when they offend? We know that ‘acknowledging and accounting for wrongs is deeply enshrined within both British law and society’.
“Then, why is it that you cannot apologise for your nation’s documented historical wrong? Do you think, like members of your family before you seemed to think, that we are a sub-human species and therefore not worthy of an apology?”
A call was also made to Britain and the other enslaving countries of Europe for partnership 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”.
The Wessexes are the latest royals to tour the Caribbean as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee celebrations.
This year marks her 70th on the throne.
Last month’s visit to the region by Prince William and his wife Kate was also hit by protesters demanding restorative justice.
Whether or not the Earl and Countess of Wessex will face the same action remains to be seen as they begin their Caribbean tour today, which also includes visits to St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
News broke yesterday that the couple will postpone the Grenada leg of their trip. Buckingham Palace said the couple hoped to visit at a later date.
The suggestion to postpone was made by Grenada upon advice from the Governor General, who is the Queen’s representative on the island. Royal aides have not elaborated on the reasons.
It is understood it followed discussions between the palace and the host Caribbean countries over the couple’s itinerary. Part of the process was to ensure the itinerary would meet the aims of the couple’s tour, which are to celebrate the islands as well as the Queen’s platinum jubilee. It was during those discussions that the postponement was suggested.
Edward and Sophie are due to meet communities, local entrepreneurs, craftspeople, and young people during the tour. Edward will meet athletes in training for the Commonwealth Games, and Sophie will meet female leaders.
In Antigua and Barbuda, they will meet some of the West Indies’ famous cricketers, and the national rowing team.
A detailed rundown of Monday’s visit to Antigua and Barbuda is expected to be divulged today during a press conference at Government House.