I’D be curious to know what was really going through Charles Windsor’s mind as he addressed the people of Barbados, who’ve decided that monarchy has had its day.

Did he honestly think they’d buy his mealy-mouthed platitudes, when Barbadians know that his ancestors made untold fortunes from the transatlantic slave trade?

I wonder, too, if he’s aware that once he, and now son William and family, lived in a palace built on slavery? 

One thing’s for sure. The royals have always been adept at spotting business opportunities. Elizabeth I was no exception. In the 1560s she granted commissions to privateer John Hawkins to kidnap and sell slaves in the Caribbean, which he did at considerable profit, gaining a knighthood and land in return.

Charles II took the business further when he formed the Royal African Company of England in 1672, which, according to historian William Pettigrew, ‘shipped more enslaved African women, men and children to the Americas than any other single institution during the entire period of the transatlantic slave trade.’

Before departure, captives were branded on the right shoulder or breast with the letters DY, standing for the Duke of York, later James II, governor and largest shareholder of the company.

William III, who built Kensington Palace, opened up slavery to other operators, taking a 10 per cent cut of the profits, of course.


His decision heralded a century of unparallelled wealth creation for the British élite and huge suffering, disease and death for the estimated five million Africans transported to the Caribbean, among them 600,000 to Barbados.

By the 1760s opposition to this barbaric trade was growing. Except in royal circles. George III and his sons defended slavery to the hilt and, thanks to their efforts, the trade continued for decades until the Slave Trade Act of 1807.

Thereafter trade continued illegally and, predictably, was aided and abetted by the monarchy.

Not until 1833 was the slave trade finally abolished by act of parliament, and then only after slaveowners, including George Smith of Croydon, a relative of the Queen, were compensated for ‘losses’ to the tune of £20 million; the equivalent of £17 billion today. And only in 2015 did the British government finally stop paying them.

Freed slaves received nothing.

The National Wales: Singer Rihanna looks on as Prince Charles delivers a speech at the ceremony Picture: Toby Melville PASinger Rihanna looks on as Prince Charles delivers a speech at the ceremony Picture: Toby Melville PA

I wonder if Charles feels any responsibility for the actions of his ancestors?

Is he aware that his family continues to benefit from slavery? Should the royals be liable for reparations, in addition to the manifest liability of the British state? Should there be a royal apology at the very least?

Perhaps Charles should follow the lead of Andrew Hawkins, descendent of Sir John Hawkins. In June 2006 Andrew publicly apologised for John Hawkins' actions.

He and friends knelt in chains before 25,000 Africans to ask forgiveness for his ancestor's involvement in the slave trade at Independence Stadium in Bakau, the Gambia. Vice President Isatou Njie Saidy symbolically removed their chains in a spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness.

This could have been an opportunity for the future king of England to show he means to do things differently. Based on his sham performance in Barbados, however, I can’t see that happening.

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