Prince William's spoke about "relationships evolving and friendships enduring", ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship reports
Prince William has told his hosts in the final country on a difficult Caribbean tour that the Royal Family will support them no matter what decisions they take about keeping or replacing the Queen as Head of State. Following several days of criticism, particularly in Jamaica and from Jamaicans, about the way in which the tour has been conducted, the Duke of Cambridge delivered a speech in the Bahamas last night. It was the kind of speech about evolving relationships that his critics say he should have delivered at the beginning in order to set a different tone for the tour.
Prince William did not express similar words in Jamaica, where the debate about becoming a republic – and ditching the Queen – is much more alive than it is in The Bahamas where he gave this speech. The Bahamas – like Jamaica and Belize before it on this week-long visit – are Commonwealth Realms in which the Queen remains Sovereign. So on behalf of his grandmother, who William called the “Queen of The Bahamas”, he said:
“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. Relationships evolve. Friendship endures.”
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It is an accurate reflection of the Queen’s view about the future constitutional position for her Realms. There are 14 such countries including Canada and Australia and it is well known that the Queen respects any decisions they make about how they want to go forward. Barbados voted to remove the Queen and became a republic in November last year with a new President. Prince Charles attended the handover ceremony on November 30. William also spoke on Friday night about his time in The Bahamas as a child where he came on holiday with his mother. “Snorkelling around the James Bond wrecks off Nassau left me with the most vivid memory of your beautiful blue waters”, he said, adding, “For a young boy, obsessed with 007, it was the best holiday ever.” William and Kate returned to the waters off the coast here, in a sailing regatta – one of which William’s grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, was particularly fond.
They did so in a huge downpour and returned to dry land completely soaked through.
The Bahamas leg is much more calm than Jamaica which came before it.
Widely circulated images which appeared to show a wealthy white couple shaking hands with Jamaicans through a wire fence did not reflect the true nature of the visit to a disadvantaged area of Kingston – but the royals were ridiculed online and on social media.
What actually happened was that the couple instinctively went to say hello to crowds at the perimeter fence around a football pitch where William had just played a game with England star Raheem Sterling. The royals, and Sterling had been given huge cheers throughout the visit to Trench Town, and William and Kate also shook hands on a traditional walkabout in the street moments later. But in isolation, the fence picture did not set the right tone – in a country scared by slavery which was perpetrated by the former colonial master.
But campaigners, already sensitive about the royal visit, said William and Kate looked like they were honouring a time when Britain still had colonies under its control. The final day of this tricky Caribbean tour will take Prince William and Kate to two other Bahamian islands on Saturday: Abaco and Grand Bahama where the Duke will meet the winners of his Earthshot environmental prize. Coral Vita, grows coral on land to replant in oceans 50 times faster than traditional methods. It will be a good place to end a trip – but there will be much to reflect on when the Cambridges and their staff get home.