Prince William and Kate Middleton continued their highly anticipated royal tour of the Caribbean with a stop in Jamaica this week. Some residents of the island nation were less than thrilled to see the royal couple visiting, however, and even expressed their displeasure by protesting the tour.
Then Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness made a surprising declaration to the duke and duchess of Cambridge Wednesday. According to People, Holness declared his intention to become an independent nation that was no longer subject to the queen’s rule.
“We’re very, very happy to have you and we hope you’ve received a warm welcome of the people,” he said.
“Jamaica is a very free and liberal country and the people are very expressive —and I’m certain that you would have seen the spectrum of expressions yesterday,” he continued, referencing the couple’s arrival. “There are issues here, which as you know, are unresolved, but your presence gives us an opportunity for those issues to be placed in context, to be out front and center and to be addressed as best we can. But Jamaica is, as you would see, is a country that is proud of its history and very proud of what we have achieved. And we’re moving on and we intend to… fulfill our true ambitions and destiny to become an independent, developed and prosperous country.”
Prince William and Kate Middleton did not react outwardly to the news except for nodding their heads slightly while standing next to the Jamaican prime minister.
Later Wednesday night at a dinner event, William made a public apology for the evils of slavery, Fox News reported.
“I want to express my profound sorrow. Slavery was abhorrent. And it should never have happened,” the heir said at the event, which was hosted at King’s House in Kingston, Jamaica.
“While the pain runs deep, Jamaica continues to forge its future with determination, courage and fortitude,” William continued. “The strength and shared sense of purpose of the Jamaican people, represented in your flag and motto, celebrate an invincible spirit.”
The duke of Cambridge went on to repeat his father’s earlier speech in Barbados, condemning “the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history.”
Apparently, not many onlookers were aware Holness was going to petition for independence, but a growing contingent of citizens have been pushing for it, so the news was met with celebration from that group.
“I did not know that the prime minister was going to say what he said today. I think it is a very important step forward,” Carla Gullota, director of the nonprofit human rights organization Stand Up for Jamaica, said in response to the speech.
The former British colony would become the second Caribbean island to cut ties with Queen Elizabeth II and the United Kingdom. Barbados took those same steps this past November.