The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will visit the Bahamas, Jamaica and Belize next month as they seek to prevent further Caribbean nations from serving ties with the Queen†
The couple will spend about 12 days touring the Caribbean, marking the Royal family’s first overseas charm offensive in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee†
The visit comes at a critical time, as Commonwealth realms increasingly debate whether to follow Barbados in severing ties with the British monarchy.
The tour will have a largely environmental theme but will be packed with colorful engagements designed to win over the public and draw on the deep affection and respect still held for the 95-year-old Queen.
In the Bahamas, the Cambridges will visit Coral Vita, a coral farm focused on reef restoration that was last year named one of the five £1 million winners of the Duke’s inaugural Earthshot Prize†
The timing is crucial, with the undeniable appeal of a Royal visit – particularly from the young, dynamic Cambridges – acting as a convenient reminder of the substantial soft power the Royal family wields.
But it will be hard to ignore the debate that is sweeping the island nations, where many want to end the long history of association with Britain as a colonial power.
In December Andrew Holness, the Jamaican prime minister, said there was “no question that Jamaica has to become a republic”.
Just last week, his government further signaled its intention as Sir Patrick Allen, the governor-general, outlined its plans for the next fiscal year.
He described how the newly-created Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs had been tasked with reforming Jamaica’s laws, reviewing the constitution and “the process to shift Jamaica’s status as a constitutional monarchy”.
According to the Jamaica Observer, the hopes of many have been “roused” by the historic move made by Barbados in November.
The last senior royal to visit Jamaica – as well as Belize and the Bahamas – was Prince Harry, in 2012†
The energetic tour was hailed a huge success but coincided with a direct pledge by Portia Simpson Miller, then the newly-elected prime minister, that her government would make plans to remove the Queen as head of state.
The subject has also been raised in Belize, where the Duke served when training with the Welsh Guards.
Last year John Briceño, the prime minister, hinted that his country might follow in the footsteps of Barbados.
He said it was “high time” the country’s governing system was examined, adding: “We need to find what fits Belize best.”
The Cambridges’ staff were spotted on Belize’s paradise island of Ambergris Caye in January, preparing for a trip as part of a four-day visit to the country.
The trip to the island, which is on a barrier reef, is expected to focus on “ecological issues”.
Meanwhile Sean McWeeney, former attorney general of the Bahamas, has also admitted it is “inevitable” that his country will eventually become a republic.
Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, suggested that the timing of the Cambridges’ tour – coming so soon after Barbados became a republic – could prove to be a “useful coincidence”.
He said: “There is an inevitability to all of this. The number of realms during the next reign will diminish considerably because people want a homegrown head of state.
“But a visit by William and Catherine can only bring out the crowds and strengthen the case for keeping the monarchy, at least in the immediate future.”
Sir Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the United States, suggested recently that by 2030, the eight independent Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean which are still monarchical states will become republics.
However, he noted that the four to already make the change – Barbados, Dominica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago – were not required to hold referendums.
The constitutions of the eight remaining monarchies – Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, St Kitts-Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines – all require a referendum to change to republican status. That gives the power to the people and provides an opportunity for political dispute.
Kensington Palace declined to comment.