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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Nadine White

Prince Edward and Sophie mocked for ‘tone-deaf’ gift of a signed photo to St Lucia leader

Getty Images

Prince Edward and Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, have been criticised for gifting the Saint Lucia prime minister with a signed photograph of themselves as a gift during their royal tour.

The couple also presented the leader, Phillip J. Pierre, with a jubilee box as a “token of appreciation” when they met him at his residence on Friday evening after receiving a red carpet guard of honour on their arrival in the country.

In return, Saint Lucia’s PM gave the pair a painting of one of the island’s turtles rolled up in a long black tube, and before discovering what the gift inside the tube was, Edward joked: “It’s not a fishing rod.”

However, some online commentators have condemned the Wessexes’ gesture as “narcissistic”, “tone-deaf” and “insulting” with claims that the framed photo would “make a lovely ashtray”.

Some people further deduced that Mr Pierre’s facial expression indicated that he was less-than-impressed with the present.

“Another badly done royal tour. This is such an obvious misstep. Who is advising them?” a person queried.

Republic, a British pressure group, said: “Such a weird thing to do, especially since they’re trying to downplay the imperious tone of their visit”. The republican sentiment is more prevalent within Saint Lucia now than ever before, campaigners have said.

(Getty Images)

Rossalyn Warren, Reuters audience editor, suggested that the framed snap was an odd choice, commenting: “when I visit another country I also give the hotel a framed photo of myself as a thank you.”

Comedian, writer and presenter Ava Vidal, questioned the point of such a gesture: “These people are delusional. Why tf would you give that nonsense to someone outside of your family? What’s he meant to do with that? Hope the frame is worth something at least. He can ditch the photo and sell it.”

The Wessexes reportedly revised their schedule prior to the tour to avoid “PR mistakes” following criticism levied at Prince William and Kate during their visit to Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas.

Though it has previously been custom for members of the royal family to present photos of themselves during international visits to leaders, the gesture has been branded as inappropriate in the context of growing calls forBritain to pay reparations for slavery and atone for its colonial crimes.

Sophie and Edward on Friday began their seven-day tour of the Caribbean where they also visited Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and are scheduled to arrive in Antigua and Barbuda on Monday, following a last-minute cancellation of the Grenada leg of their trip.

The Platinum Jubilee tour was organised to mark the Queen’s 70-year reign, and it comes shortly after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were criticised for some elements of their recent Caribbean tour, deemed to hark back to colonial days.

Newly-elected Prime Minister of Saint Lucia Philip J. Pierre is, along with several Caribbean prime ministers, lobbying for Britain to pay slavery reparations to its former colonies and has called for slavery reparations demands to “be treated with the seriousness and urgency it requires”.

Speaking to world leaders at United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the PM said: “Caribbean countries like ours that were exploited and underdeveloped to finance the development of Europe have put forward a case for Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide and we expect that case to be treated with the seriousness and urgency it deserves.”

(Getty Images)

Having led the Saint Lucia Labour Party in the general election of 2021, Mr Pierre was sworn in as Prime Minister of Saint Lucia on 28 July 2021 after the party won a majority of seats.

A seasoned partliamentarian with a political career spanning over three decades, Mr Pierre has been vocal about the importance of tackling racial equality in all its forms.

During an empassioned speech commemorating Emancipation Day last August, he said: “While slavery was abolished in Saint Lucia and other British territories 183 years ago, the mindset and racial attitudes that brought African people to the Caribbean and the Americas as slaves still lingers.

“Even today, as commemorate emancipation, the war continues against racial discrimination, poverty, disease, drug abuse, marginalisation and inequality continues.

“We must, as a people, continue that resistance, remembering the struggle of our forefathers. Emancipation Day calls for us to pay homage to the resistance of armed rebellions like the 1794-98 Brigand wars in Saint lucia and the 1804 Haitian revolution.”

Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex attend a Sunday service at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church on April 24, 2022 in Castries, Saint Lucia. (Getty Images)

There have been growing calls for Britain to pay reparations for slavery within countries in the Caribbean and across the disapora which have evidently been further fuelled by the royal tours of former British colonies.

While Prince Charles expressed sorrow for slavery in Barbados in November 2021 during the island’s republic celebrations, and Prince William did likewise in Jamaica in March 202, this has been described as wholly inadequate.

In a 2015 speech by former UK Prime Minister David Cameron on a visit to Jamaica, he said he hoped everyone involved would “move on” from slavery; an inflammatory remark that has yielded much criticism.

Saint Lucia’s National Reparations Commission (NRC), appointed by the government, said “royal expressions of sorrow” regarding slavery are not enough and is demanding a full apology from the crown.

“Britain, the royal family and the European nations that built empires from off the backs of enslaved Africans are avoiding making full and formal apologies because they still don’t want to plead guilty despite the United Nations declaring Slavery a Crime Against Humanity in 2001 and because they are simply not committed to atonement and repair,” the statement reads.

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