Prince William addressed growing discontent toward the Crown in the Caribbean on Friday, saying he will support whatever a Commonwealth country decides about removing Queen Elizabeth as head of state.
“With Jamaica celebrating 60 years of independence this year, and Belize celebrating 40 years of independence last year, I want to say this: We support with pride and respect your decisions about your future,” the Duke of Cambridge said at a reception in the Bahamas on Friday, during the last leg of a royal trip to the Caribbean that has been marked by protests against the monarchy.
“Relationships evolve. Friendship endures,” he added.
The duke’s comments fall in line with typical responses from Buckingham Palace when it’s asked about various Commonwealth countries’ talks on whether to remove Queen Elizabeth as head of state and become a republic. The palace says it is a matter for the people of a given country to decide.
On Thursday, Belize became the latest country to begin the process of deciding whether to become a republic.
Henry Charles Usher, minister of public service and constitutional and political reform in Belize, said the government had created the People’s Constitutional Commission, which aims to conduct “consultations across the country on the continuing decolonisation process.”
“Madam Speaker, the decolonisation process is enveloping the Caribbean region,” Usher said Thursday, via Loop News. “Perhaps it is time for Belize to take that next step in truly owning our independence. But it is a matter that the people of Belize must decide on.”
Queen Elizabeth remains the constitutional monarch of Belize, a role that is regarded as both symbolic and ceremonial, according to the royal family’s website.
“She has a unique relationship with the central American country,” the website adds. “In all her official duties relating to Belize, she speaks and acts as Queen of Belize, and not as Queen of the UK.”
Queen Elizabeth is represented by a governor general in Belize ― a position currently held by Froyla Tzalam ― who handles day-to-day matters there on behalf of the queen.
Usher’s comments came just days after Prince William and Kate Middleton visited Belize on a royal tour to mark Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee year. The couple attended a reception hosted by Tzalam while they were there.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were greeted with protests in Belize, which continued during subsequent stops in Jamaica and the Bahamas, as organizations called on the royals to acknowledge and apologize for their role in the slave trade, and make reparation payments.
Talks of Caribbean countries removing the queen as head of state ― while remaining part of the Commonwealth ― are occurring four months after Barbados officially removed the queen as head of state and replaced the monarch with the country’s first president, Sandra Mason. Mason previously served as governor general.
After decades of discussion, Mason set the wheels in motion for Barbados to become a parliamentary republic in September 2020 in a speech delivered on behalf of Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
“The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind,” Mason said at the time. “Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state.”
In December 2021, shortly after Barbados’ transition was complete, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said there was “no question that Jamaica has to become a republic.”
“We have put together a plan to move towards that in a way that is meaningful and substantial in function and form,” Holness said, via Loop Jamaica News. “That is what we are going to do.”
He later reaffirmed his intentions during a face-to-face visit with Prince William and Kate Middleton this week.
“Jamaica is, as you would see, a country that is very proud of our history and very proud of what we have achieved,” he told the Cambridges during a courtesy call. “And we are moving on. And we intend to attain, in short order, our development goals and fulfill our true ambitions and destiny as an independent, developed, prosperous country.”
Holness said on Twitter later that day that as Jamaica approaches its 60th anniversary of independence on Aug. 6, “it is inevitable that we will move towards becoming a republic in fulfillment of the will of the people of Jamaica.”
There has been a growing sense of urgency to countries’ conversations about removing the queen as head of state, even though her reign is not over yet.
After the royal family’s silence on Black Lives Matter and its mishandling of the Windrush scandal ― and given Barbados’ success ― many people, politicians and thought leaders feel that now is the right time to make moves.
Lisa Hanna, a four-term member of Jamaica’s Parliament and shadow minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, told HuffPost by phone Wednesday that republic talks in Jamaica right now are “very, very different” than they have been previously.
“I think it’s different is because of the amplification from many different quarters, and the necessity for political leaders to recognize how important it is to listen to the people of your country,” But, she adds, “the issue of having our own head of state, of having this kind of reparations and justice must be taken seriously ― the Caribbean can’t do it alone. Jamaica can’t do it alone.”
“We need the United Kingdom to seriously engage with us on this matter,” Hanna said, later adding: “We need people, we need politicians, we need leaders, we need everyone working together to take this matter seriously. There’s really an urgency in the west, and it takes a degree of bravery and political courage to really stand up and advocate for this issue.”