King Charles III was installed as Britain's new monarch on May 6, 2023. While some international media organisations were calling the event a “once-in-a-generation ceremony,” it was just another day in the Caribbean, a region that has long struggled with the UK's legacy of colonisation and the lingering effects of the transatlantic slave trade.
This is not to say that the Caribbean and other members of the Commonwealth were not represented at the coronation. Despite Barbados becoming a republic in 2021 and Jamaica making similar noises post the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's fraught 2022 regional tour, a sizeable contingent of Caribbean leaders was in attendance, from Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Guyana, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Regional troops played an active role in the ceremony, as did three women with Caribbean roots: former children’s television presenter Baroness Floella Benjamin, who has Trinidadian roots and chaired the Windrush Commemoration Committee, carried the new king's sceptre; Guyana-born Baroness Valerie Amos, the first Black woman to serve as a Cabinet minister, joined the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Act of Recognition at the start of the coronation ceremony; and Reverend Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Bishop of Dover who originally hails from Jamaica, presented the Queen Consort’s rod.
In light of the UK's past responses to the issue of reparations, however, such attempts at diversity rang hollow for many Caribbean citizens. Britain has never apologised for its role in the slave trade.
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A few key regional heads of government, most notably prime ministers Keith Rowley (Trinidad and Tobago), Andrew Holness (Jamaica) and Mia Mottley (Barbados), did not attend the coronation. Despite Prime Minister Mottley, who is known to have a good relationship with the king, sending a message of congratulations, this Twitter user shared a UK Guardian opinion piece that suggested:
In the clip, Blake-Hannah refers to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's revelation in a 2021 interview with U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey that a member of the royal family expressed interest in the potential skin colour of their then-unborn son, Archie. Blake-Hannah noted, “It stunned us. Still does.”
Meanwhile, Jamaica's Minister for Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Marlene Malahoo-Forte, told Sky News that “the time has come” for Jamaica to be “in Jamaican hands”:
The country is hoping to have a referendum on the matter next year. Belize is also taking action to remove itself from the hold of the British monarchy.
Though the coronation ceremony involved people of colour and made concerted attempts to use language and prayers that focused on inclusivity, the new king failed to directly address reparative justice, or even publicly acknowledge his country’s role in the atrocities against enslaved Africans and Indigenous communities, in spite of heightened public awareness of the issue and activists’ agitation for amends to be made.