Prince William says after Caribbean criticism links to the British Crown to the Commonwealth

LONDON — As the Caribbean nations debate their relationship with the British crown, Prince William says he will support and respect any decision people make.

William, second in line to the throne, was speaking after an eight-day tour of Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas, during which he and his wife Kate were feted but also criticized for being “deaf” for perpetuating images of British colonial rule.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness told royals his country intended to become a republic and removed the British monarch as head of state.

“I know this tour has brought even more focus to questions about the past and future,” William said in a statement at the end of her tour on Saturday. “In Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas, people have to decide about that future.”

The young royals visited the three nations as representatives of Queen Elizabeth II, who is celebrating the 70th anniversary of her reign this year. During those seven decades she was Head of State for the United Kingdom and 14 realms that were once colonies of the British Empire and are now independent countries.

The royal couple were greeted by protesters demanding an apology for Britain’s role in the enslavement of millions of Africans and reparation for the damage caused by slavery. During a speech in Jamaica, William expressed his “deep regret” over slavery but did not apologize.

William recognized the changing nature of ties between Britain and its former colonies during a speech Friday night in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.

“We proudly support and respect your decisions about your future,” said William. “Relationships develop. Friendship stays.”

Whatever the former colonies decide about their continued relationship with the Crown, William said he would continue to serve them through the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 54 countries with historical ties to Britain. The Queen was Head of the Commonwealth throughout her reign and Prince Charles, William’s father, is her designated successor.

William realized that he must not follow in their footsteps.

“Who the Commonwealth chooses to lead their family in the future is not what I have in mind,” he said. “What matters to us is the potential of the Commonwealth family to create a better future for the people who make it up, and our commitment to serve and support as best we can.”

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