The issue of the British Empire’s slavery links and calls for possible reparations from the monarchy has been growing in the Caribbean…reports Asian Lite News
King Charles has given his support to research that will examine the British monarchy’s links to slavery, Buckingham Palace said on Thursday, after a newspaper report said a document showed a historical connection with a transatlantic slave trader.
The Guardian said an archive document discovered by historian Brooke Newman showed that in 1689 King William III had been given 1,000 pounds of shares in the Royal African Company (RAC) which was involved in the transportation of thousands of slaves from Africa to the Americas.
The recently discovered document was signed by Edward Colston, a slave trade magnate whose history became widely known after protesters pulled down a statue to him in Bristol, southwest England, and threw it in the harbour during 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.
“This is an issue that His Majesty takes profoundly seriously,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement.
The issue of the British Empire’s slavery links and calls for possible reparations from the monarchy has been growing in the Caribbean where King Charles remains head of state of a number of countries including Jamaica and the Bahamas.
Buckingham Palace said the royal household would help to support an independent research project looking into any links between the monarchy and slavery during the late seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries, by allowing access to the Royal Collection and the Royal Archives.
The Palace highlighted a speech King Charles made to Commonwealth leaders last June, when he said: “I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many as I continue to deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact.”
That process had continued with “vigour and determination” since King Charles succeeded his mother on the throne last September, it said.
There were a protests and calls for an apology for slavery when King Charles’s eldest and now heir Prince William went on tour with his wife to the Caribbean in March last year.
“Given the complexities of the issues it is important to explore them as thoroughly as possible,” the Palace statement said. “It is expected that the research will conclude in September 2026.”
In a visit to Jamaica last spring, Prince William said slavery was abhorrent, “should never have happened” and “forever stains our history”.
The King wants to continue his pledge to deepen his understanding of slavery’s impact with “vigour and determination” since his accession, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said.
They continued: “This is an issue that His Majesty takes profoundly seriously.”
“Given the complexities of the issues it is important to explore them as thoroughly as possible.”
A Palace statement was issued in response to the Guardian, which has published a previously unseen document showing the 1689 transfer of shares in the slave-trading Royal African Company from Edward Colston – the slave trader and the company’s deputy governor – to King William III.
The King has also said that each Commonwealth country should make its own decision over whether it is a constitutional monarchy or a republic.
He said he was aware the roots of the Commonwealth organisation “run deep into the most painful period of our history” and said acknowledging the wrongs of the past was a “conversation whose time has come”.
There are currently 14 Commonwealth Realms in addition to the UK where the King is their head of state.
Dr Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust – a race equality think tank – told the BBC “it is wonderful to see King Charles building on his mother’s legacy”.
She described it as “incredibly encouraging” to see an incremental engagement from the monarchy on issues surrounding the injustice of slavery.
Dr Begum went on to say that the “next step could be a royal commission to unearth the complex histories of colonialism,” and that it would “really inspire millions of British citizens, and of course citizens across the Commonwealth”.
The Palace’s announcement came as the King took part in a centuries-old Easter tradition, known as Maundy Thursday, for the first time since becoming monarch.
Dr Edmond Smith, who is supervising Ms de Koning’s project, said the crown has “often been left out of discussions” on the transatlantic slave trade, calling it an “important hole that needed to be filled through the research”.
“How the royal household may take that research on board is something we can only hope to see develop in the coming years,” he added.
The PhD study is co-sponsored by Historic Royal Palaces which manages several sites. It started in October, one month after the King came to the throne. It will look into the extent of any investments from any other slave trading companies.