The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelled to the stunning island of Jamaica this week, for a three-day official visit to help celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of The Queen. In recognition of her ascension to the throne 70 years ago, many activities are taking place throughout the Commonwealth to mark this first of its kind milestone.
The Cambridges were greeted at Norman Manley International Airport by a welcoming party, which included members of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, the president of the Senate, ambassadors and the British High Commissioner, Her Excellency, Judith Slater. William and Catherine then proceeded to the King’s House, the official residence of Their Excellencies, Governor General Sir Patrick Allen and Lady Allen for a meeting.
Jamaica is known globally as the official birthplace of reggae music and home of the music legend, Bob Marley. Greeted by a huge crowd on their arrival, the royal couple fully immersed themselves in the culture of Kingston’s Trench Town neighbourhood, where they visited the Trench Town Culture Yard Museum. It was in the Trench Town house where Bob Marley lived, learnt to perform and wrote a number of his songs, including his most famous one, “No Woman No Cry”.
While meeting with other local musicians, both the Duke and Duchess took part in a traditional Nyabinghi drum session, where they sat in the middle of a Rastafarian drum circle and each banged away on their drums with abandon.
Additionally, Prince William and Catherine were taught about the area’s social history as well as the incredible global contribution to music that came from the town.
Not only known for music, Jamaica has contributed immensely in the field of sport. Although he hadn’t brought any trainers with him, Prince William still took part in a football match with England footballer Raheem Sterling and some local young football players – including the winners of Jamaica’s famous competition between the parishes Secondary High School Under 19 boy’s football teams- the Manning Cup.
Born in Jamaica, Sterling created a foundation to help give children who are disadvantaged, an opportunity to break out of the cycle of poverty. The Raheem Sterling Foundation currently has successful programs running in Jamaica, Manchester, and London.
The Queen’s grandson was in all of his glory wearing a yellow #10 vest and playing alongside the England star. William even set Raheem up to score the only goal of the match. Upon also getting to meet Aston Villa and Jamaica winger Leon Bailey at the match, the Prince introduced the two footballers to his wife as ‘two heroes of mine’.
Also on hand, were the amazing athletes just back from competing at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the Jamaican Bobsled team. Always keen to join in, William and Catherine climbed into the bobsled together and discussed what it was like to travel in the sled going up to 95 miles per hour!
On day two of the royal tour, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had an official meeting with the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, and his wife Juliet. One of the main topics of discussion came from the Prime Minister and revolved around Jamaica’s intention to break away from the monarchy. Amidst the royal couple’s arrival to Jamaica, there were some protests taking place which were calling on the country to remove The Queen as head of state, like their neighbour Barbados.
PM Holness was elected as Jamaica’s leader in 2016 and promised that his government would create a bill that would replace Queen Elizabeth II with a non-executive president as Head of State. Jamaica’s goal is to sever ties with the monarchy by 6th August, which happens to coincide with Jamaica’s Independence Day.
PM Holness expressed to the royal couple in front of the press: “We’re very, very happy to have you and we hope you’ve received a warm welcome of the people. 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.”
“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 centre and to be addressed as best we can. But, Jamaica is, as you would see, is a country that is proud of it’s history and very proud of what we have achieved. And we’re moving on and we intend to… fulfil our true ambitions and destiny to become an independent, developed and prosperous country.”
None of this came as a surprise to the Duke and Duchess as they were well aware of the protests that were taking place and the fight for reparations to compensate the island for money earned from the slave trade.
Before leaving, William and Catherine were presented with a gift of Appleton Estate Ruby Rum. This spirit was created by the first female master blender in the world, Dr. Joy Spence.
Next up on the Duke and Duchess’ agenda was a visit to the Shortwood Teacher’s College in Kingston. The focus of the college is to train students who wish to become practitioners in early childhood education. Established in 1885, Shortwood offers four-year degree courses in the fields of early years, primary and secondary education. Nationally, there is a massive demand for graduates of the college.
As early childhood education is a topic close to her heart, The Duchess of Cambridge addressed the school and praised them for their tremendous work. It has been a mission of the Duchess to elevate and recognise the fundamentality of early childhood education in regards to raising children.
In her speech, Catherine shared how crucial it is to have a ‘well-trained professional workforce’ when educating young children.
She shared: “Decades of science and research have shown us that our earliest experiences establish the fundamental foundations that shape and connect our future lives. It is when we learn how to form relationships, how to love, how to manage our feelings and emotions. It is when we develop our sense of identity, belonging and worthiness. And it is when we shape our values and understanding of the world.
“So we are doing something much more than just building healthy children – we are nurturing the people they will become, the families they will build and the communities they will be part of.”
One notable section of her speech was directed at the students themselves: “You as teachers are at the front line of this work and play a crucial role in shaping our societies by positively impacting the futures of literally thousands of young people over the course of your careers.”
A visit to the Spanish Town Hospital to learn about how the COVID pandemic has affected the healthcare system of Jamaica, was the next event of the day. The hospital is celebrating its 70th anniversary in operation this year. While touring the facilities, the Royals visited a number of different departments including the A&E department, the outpatient clinic and the neonatal and maternity wards, and chatted with the healthcare workers as well.
Prince William spoke with some of the medics at the hospital about how crucial they have been for providing support and strength to everyone. He asked them to look after themselves, speak about their mental health and the stresses and pressures that they experience from their jobs. William also praised them for being the heroes that go out and save lives every single day.
The next engagement for William and Catherine was a visit to Flankers, the Caribbean Military Technical Training Institute near Montego Bay. At the institute, the Jamaican Defence Force provides training to at-risk young men who come from vulnerable communities. It is hoped that by training these young men to drive trucks and operate other heavy machinery that they will be able to eventually secure employment and break the cycle of poverty.
A glittering state dinner held at the King’s House by the Governor General Sir Patrick and Lady Allen was the final event of the Cambridges’ packed day. As The Queen and Prince Philip did on their first visit to Jamaica in 1953, the Duke and Duchess – William in a debonair tuxedo and Catherine, resplendent in a sparkling, green Jenny Packham confection – recreated the Grand Central staircase entrance on their first official visit as well.
As the keynote speaker of the event, Prince William spoke from the heart while discussing the role that Britain had played in the slave trade. The future King stated that is was abhorrent and a stain on the country’s history. Delving a little deeper, The Duke of Cambridge shared that he felt disgusted at not only the appalling atrocity but also that it has left such a heavy legacy in Jamaica.
Echoing his father, The Prince of Wales’ sentiments, Prince William said: “I strongly agree with my father, The Prince of Wales, who said in Barbados last year that the appalling atrocity of slavery forever stains our history. I want to express my profound sorrow. Slavery was abhorrent. And it should never have happened.
“While the pain runs deep, Jamaica continues to forge its future with determination, courage and fortitude. We are forever grateful for the immense contribution that this generation and their descendants have made to British life, which continues to enrich and improve our society.”
Catherine wore a pair of earrings and bracelet from The Queen’s collection, part of her emerald tassel parure. Gold and diamond knots lead into three diamond tassels ending in emerald stones. The set first appeared in 1989 and was last seen (the necklace, at least) in 2011 when Her Majesty hosted President Obama.
She of course also wore her Royal Family Order of Elizabeth II, a personal gift from the Monarch, and her Dame Grand Cross
For the couple’s final event in Jamaica the following day, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended the Inaugural Commissioning Parade for the initial Officer Training Programme at the Caribbean Military Academy. Entering the event in the vehicle Her Majesty used starting in the 1960’s, the couple evoked fond memories of The Queen and her visits.
During the ceremony, The Duchess of Cambridge presented awards to the top two officer cadets. He and the Duchess rode in the same open-top vehicle used by The Queen and Prince Philip on their royal tour of the Caribbean in 1953.
Afterwards, The Queen’s grandson spoke from experience to the newly graduated cadets. He disclosed to them: “I know very well from my own time at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst what a formative experience this year has been.
“Today you mark the successful completion of your training programme in the classrooms, on the parade squares and in the exercise areas. But remember, this is just the beginning. Because now the hard works really starts, as you join your units and assume command. You are graduating today as officers into an uncertain world. In your service ahead you will have to contend with climatic, geological, criminal, and wider state and non-state threats to our collective safety, security and prosperity.”
Prince William then finished his speech by quoting the late legend Bob Marley. He declared: “Being asked to lead men and women through uncertainty and danger is daunting.
“You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.”
The couple left Jamaica , with Kate wearing a brooch of The Queen’s. The piece, depicting a Jamaican National Doctor Bird or hummingbird, was a gift to The Queen from Jamaica for her Golden Jubilee, back in 2002. It featured in a Queen and Commonwealth exhibition in 2009, too.