Prince Charles shares ‘sorrow’ at suffering slavery caused – but no apology

Prince Charles has shared his “sorrow” for the suffering caused by slavery – but stopped short of an apology for his family’s historic involvement.

The senior royal told Commonwealth leaders the potential of the family of the nations for good cannot be realised until “we all acknowledge the wrongs which have shaped our past”.

Charles described how he was on a “personal journey of discovery” and was continuing to “deepen his own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact”, in a speech at the opening of a Commonwealth summit in Rwanda.

But there was no apology from the heir to the throne for the royal family’s involvement in the transportation and selling of people for profit.

For centuries, successive monarchs and other royals participated in the trade, either supporting and facilitating the activity or making money from it.

Prince Charles met with Boris Johnson met in Rwanda, amid reports of a rift over the Home Office plan to deport asylum seekers to the country

Charles’ comments follow a disastrous royal trip to the Caribbean by his son William and wife Kate in March, in which the couple were accused of being ‘tone deaf’.

Protesters in Jamaica are demanding an apology and slavery reparations, with calls to follow in the footsteps of Barbados and sever ties with the monarchy altogether.

Charles told the gathering of prime ministers and presidents, including Boris Johnson, on Friday he could not “describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many” during slavery.

The prince is representing the Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm), but his visit to the Rwandan capital Kigali has been overshadowed by a row over reported comments he made criticising the Government’s scheme to send asylum seekers to the east African nation.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were widely criticsed over this photo, as they shake hands with children behind fences during a visit to Trench Town

A much-anticipated meeting between Charles and Boris Johnson lasted 15 minutes. Before they sat down for talks, Mr Johnson had stepped back from comments he would tell Charles to be open-minded about his Rwanda asylum policy.

The prince told the world leaders the family of nations was “uniquely positioned to achieve such positive change in our world”, adding: “To achieve this potential for good, however, and to unlock the power of our common future, we must also acknowledge the wrongs which have shaped our past.

“Many of those wrongs belong to an earlier age with different – and, in some ways lesser – values. By working together, we are building a new and enduring friendship.”

The couple were met with protests in Jamaica

Charles, who will succeed the Queen as head of the Commonwealth, went on to say: “For while we strive together for peace, prosperity and democracy, I want to acknowledge that the roots of our contemporary association run deep into the most painful period of our history.

“I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many, as I continue to deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact.

“If we are to forge a common future that benefits all our citizens, we too must find new ways to acknowledge our past. Quite simply, this is a conversation whose time has come.”

Commonwealth Heads of Government have been meeting this week

Charles also told the world leaders decisions about whether they keep the Queen as head of state or become a republic was an issue for them to make, and a long life had taught him these fundamental changes could be made “calmly and without rancour”.

His comments are likely to be interpreted as acknowledging forces already in motion, as a number of Caribbean nations have already suggested they may ditch the British monarchy and elect their own heads of state.

“I want to say clearly, as I have said before, that each member’s Constitutional arrangement, as republic or monarchy, is purely a matter for each member country to decide,” the prince said.

Charles, Commonwealth secretary-general Patricia Scotland, Rwandan president Paul Kagame and Boris Johnson

Charles and Mr Johnson had met briefly before they joined leaders from the Commonwealth’s 54 member states in the Kigali Conference Centre’s main hall for the opening ceremony.

Delegates included the Sultan of Brunei, the presidents of Botswana, Guyana, Nigeria and Uganda and prime ministers from Canada, Jamaica, St Lucia, Cameroon and Singapore.

The British Prime Minister had warmly greeted the heir to the throne ahead of the Chogm launch, displaying positive body language after he appeared to take a veiled verbal swipe, on Thursday, at the prince and those who have attacked his plans to forcibly remove migrants to Rwanda.

The Duchess of Cornwall and Carrie Johnson meet in Rwanda, as the latter’s husband face another electoral defeat at home

Charles’s speech to Commonwealth leaders, which also covered the issues of youth opportunity and climate change, was considered an opportunity to “set out his vision” for its future, an aide said.

With 60% of the Commonwealth’s 2.6 billion population under 30, Charles sees ensuring youth opportunity, training and employment as “critical”.

Many member states were “massively impacted” by climate change and so for the prince to bring businesses to Chogm to discuss potential solutions was “critically important”, the aide added.

And Charles realised that in order to achieve that vision the “historic shared past” must be recognised, which meant him making a personal statement about his sorrow.


Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.

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