For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are set to undertake an official overseas visit together. Prince William and Kate Middleton will visit Belize, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, on a week-long tour in late March. This will be their first official visit to the Caribbean.
The tour will begin in Belize on March 19 and end in Jamaica on March 26. Per Kensington Palace, in Belize, the Cambridges "will visit historic Mayan sites and celebrate the rich culture of the Garifuna community as well as exploring the country’s biodiversity." In Jamaica, they will meet with the Jamaica Defence Force and celebrate Jamaican musicians, and in the Bahamas, they will travel across numerous islands are experience a "famous junkanoo parade," a street parade celebrating Bahamian culture.
The Caribbean visit will focus on causes that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge care about, including mental health and early childhood education. According to Kensington Palace, "Their Royal Highnesses are keen to understand more about the impact that the pandemic has had across the Caribbean, and how communities have pulled together to respond to the challenges they have faced."
In April, Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, will undertake a visit to other commonwealth countries in the Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. This is part of a larger plan of royal tours in honor of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee year—including a visit of Prince Charles and Camilla to Ireland and Princess Anne to Papua New Guinea.
The Cambridges' Caribbean tour is ostensibly in celebration of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, but also is a "charm offensive," per The Telegraph. The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Belize are all Commonwealth realms—nations where Queen Elizabeth serves as monarch and head of state. There are currently 15 Commonwealth realms, after Barbados became the most recent realm to become a republic.
Barbados severed ties with the British monarchy in November 2021, becoming a republic after almost 400 years of various forms of British rule—Prince Charles attended the ceremony. In the wake of that decision, the debate over whether or not to remove the Queen as head of state has reignited across many Commonwealth realms. And it's not just Caribbean nations—polling in Australia and Canada shows removing the Queen as head of state is popular.
Calls for Jamaica to become a republic especially intensified after Barbados left the Commonwealth. Jamaica's prime minister Andrew Holness declared in December 2021 that "Jamaica has to become a republic." Holness added, "We have put together a plan to move towards that in a way that is meaningful and substantial in function and form. That is what we are going to do."
Belize's leader, too, has spoken about the need for a change in government structure. Prime Minister John Briceño said in July 2021: "Probably one of the things we will be talking about in the near future [is] whether we want to stay with the parliamentary system, or do we want to go to a republican system, or find a hybrid between a parliamentary system and a republican system?"
The last senior royal to visit the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Belize was Prince Harry in 2012 as part of a Diamond Jubilee Tour. In addition, Princess Anne visited Jamaica and the Bahamas in 2015 and Prince Edward and Sophie visited the Bahamas in 2016.
Last summer, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle acknowledged the "uncomfortable" history of the Commonwealth in conversation with youth leaders involved in the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.
"When you look across the Commonwealth, there is no way that we can move forward unless we acknowledge the past," Prince Harry said, urging the United Kingdom to work to "right the wrongs" of its colonial history.
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