Queen Elizabeth II’s youngest son Prince Edward and his wife Sophie on Friday began a week-long Caribbean tour, but cancelled one leg of the trip after recent pro-republican protests.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex, as they are formally known, are visiting Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda until next Thursday, marking the queen’s record-breaking 70th year on the throne.
The 96-year-old queen is head of state in all three countries, as well as the United Kingdom and 11 other Commonwealth countries around the world.
The visit comes as several Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean campaign for the monarch to be dropped as their head of state, and after protests condemning colonial-era abuses.
Edward and Sophie had planned to visit Grenada but cancelled following advice from its government and the governor-general, who represents the queen, Buckingham Palace said Thursday, without elaborating.
Activists in the Caribbean have said they will use the visit to renew calls for the royal family and Britain to apologise and provide reparations for colonial-era rule and slavery.
Barbados, which declared independence from Britain in 1966, dropped the queen as head of state last year, while Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas have all indicated they want to follow suit.
Edward, 58, and Sophie, 57, have a schedule focused on sports, local community and sightseeing, including meeting West Indian cricketers and athletes training for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in England.
The queen’s grandson Prince William and his wife, Kate, had a turbulent visit to the Caribbean in March, encountering protests against British colonialist rule and the slave trade.
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness pointedly told William in front of television cameras that the nation was “moving on” as an independent country, and the couple’s visit prompted placard-bearing protests.
The couple drew criticism for evoking colonial rule, notably when photographs emerged of them greeting children through metal chain-link fences, and for parading in an open-topped jeep in military uniform.
“I know that this tour has brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future,” William, who is second in line to the throne, said at the end of the tour.
“In Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas, that future is for the people to decide upon.” — Agence France-Presse