LONDON – Prince William has said he is committed to service and “not telling people what to do” after a tour of the Caribbean that was marked by protests over the British empire and criticism that the trip reflected a throwback to colonial times.
William released the statement at the end of an eight-day tour with his wife Kate to Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas that included protests and calls for reparations payments by Britain and an apology for slavery.
Some British and international media have also criticised some images from the tour, such as the royals shaking hands with Jamaican children through wire fences and standing on an open-top vehicle to observe a military parade that recreated an image of Queen Elizabeth doing the same thing in the 1950s.
“I know that this tour has brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future,” William said. “In Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas, that future is for the people to decide upon.”
William, second in line to the British throne, had travelled to the Caribbean with Kate to mark Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years as monarch. But it came as some countries consider cutting ties with the British monarchy and after Barbados dropped the 95-year-old queen as head of state and became a republic.
Elizabeth remains queen of 15 realms, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
William, whose official title is Duke of Cambridge, said he and his wife wanted to serve.
“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.”
He added that he was also not thinking about who would lead the Commonwealth of Nations, a group of 54 countries, almost all of which are former colonies of the United Kingdom, which is primarily focused on promoting democracy and development.
The queen is the head of the Commonwealth and while the role is not hereditary, it will pass to William’s father and heir to the throne, Prince Charles.