As Prince William and Kate Middleton‘s tour of the Caribbean comes to an end on Saturday, the Duke of Cambridge has released a landmark statement, reflecting on the future governance of the Caribbean nations.
“I know that this tour has brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future. In Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas, that future is for the people to decide upon,” William says.
And, whatever the future holds for the countries William and Kate visited this week, the Duke of Cambridge reiterates his hope that the 54-nation Commonwealth — the voluntary body of mostly-former colonies loosely linked to Britain — will continue to “create a better future” for its people.
“Foreign tours are an opportunity to reflect. You learn so much. What is on the minds of Prime Ministers. The hopes and ambitions of school children. The day-to-day challenges faced by families and communities,” William began his statement.
“I know that this tour has brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future. In Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas, that future is for the people to decide upon. But we have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with communities in all three countries, understanding more about the issues that matter most to them.
“Catherine and I are committed to service. 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.
“It is why tours such as this reaffirm our desire to serve the people of the Commonwealth and to listen to communities around the world. Who the Commonwealth chooses to lead its family in the future isn’t what is on my mind. What matters to us is the potential the Commonwealth family has to create a better future for the people who form it, and our commitment to serve and support as best we can,” he concluded.
It has been a complex week for the royal couple. While they have met smiles and cheers wherever they have gone, there has also been an undercurrent of controversy. The tour has seen protests over colonialism and calls for dropping William’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth as head of state in Jamaica.
Earlier in the tour, and following protests in Jamaica, William, 39, expressed his “sorrow” at the “abhorrent” history of slavery that shames the U.K. — though for some, he didn’t go far enough and actually apologize.
On Friday night, William gave another speech, acknowledging that “relationships evolve” between the U.K. and the Caribbean countries, but “friendship endures.”
William’s statement on Saturday came as he and Kate concluded their eight-day tour with outings in The Bahamas. They visited islands still coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, met locals and saw groundbreaking work being done to restore coral reefs.
Both William and Kate have been aware of the protests and the voices of opposition — as well as the calls for reparations for Britain’s role in the slave trade — and have been listening as they moved through the three countries this week.
The statement was issued as the couple prepared for their final departure from the Bahamas to head back home to their children in time for Mother’s Day in the U.K.