The so-called “invisible contract” has been getting a workout in recent months, as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s clear machinations behind-the-scenes have been laid bare repeatedly. Nothing quite prepared me for the gymnastics of the royal reporters covering the Cambridges’ Keen Colonialist Tour though – it was as if those reporters saw their lazy gravy train derailed in an instant, and all of their years of work disappear like smoke. You mean to tell me that William and Kate are actually out-of-touch idiots cosplaying colonialists? You mean to tell me that William and Kate are too stupid to understand the dark, shameful histories they are mindlessly invoking? Well, who would have thought! Certainly not the Royal Rota! It’s also amazing that the British tabloids have needed to adjust their coverage and actually – gasp – become a bit more critical simply because the international press was hammering the Cambridges so hard. Speaking of, the New York Times even did a critical report: “Gaffes and Miscues Mar a Royal Tour of a Republic-Minded Caribbean.” Oof. Some highlights:
What a lede: “For Prince William and his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, it has been a turbulent tour of the Caribbean — one that has dramatized, through a pileup of gaffes and miscues, how rapidly Queen Elizabeth II is losing her grip on these distant dominions, even when she sends her most popular proxies.”
A caricature: “On many stops of their tour, the couple was greeted warmly, even jubilantly. But even those encounters were marred by off-key images. During a military parade, William, resplendent in a white dress uniform, rode with his wife, also in white, in the same open-top Land Rover that carried the queen and Prince Philip in 1962. To some locals, it was a caricature of a colonial proconsul inspecting his troops…. But the enduring image of the stop was likely to be them touching the fingers of children stretched through a chain-link fence — the kind of public-relations gaffe that afflicts other members of the royal family but has rarely tarnished this couple.
It was more than bad stagecraft: “The dissonance is about more than poor stagecraft, according to scholars and royal watchers. Sentiment toward the royal family has shifted perceptibly in the Caribbean since the killing of Black people by the police in the United States inflamed a long-simmering debate in Britain and its former colonies about the legacy of empire.
As goes Barbados, so goes the Caribbean: Barbados’s decision to remove the queen was a tipping point. “Barbados is seen as the conservative of the Caribbean,” said Richard Drayton, a professor of imperial history at Kings College London, who spent his childhood on the island. “So, when Barbados takes a step like this, it creates space for other Caribbean countries to move in that direction.”
Professor Drayton on Buckingham Palace’s miscalculation: “This is a very old strategy on the part of the royal household to cement its hold over the dominions, to make the charismatic presence of the crown visible,” he said. “The assumption they could simply send out members of the royal family to press the flesh and charm the crowds reflects a lack of clear thinking.”
The Sussex spectre: While the Harry-and-Meghan show did not intrude on the William-and-Kate tropical tour, royal watchers said the repeated references to racial issues served as an illustration of what was lost when Harry and his wife gave up their royal duties and relocated to California. On a visit to Africa before the split, Meghan electrified crowds that had never seen a British duchess who looked like them. “If this tour had been led by Harry and Meghan, it would probably have gone down a lot better than William and Kate,” said Ed Owens, a historian who has written about the relationship between the media and the monarchy. “Harry and Meghan were, if you like, the monarchy’s silver bullet, making it more palatable.”
[From The NY Times]
At the end of the article, they quote Professor Drayton again and he says that the historical trend would have always been towards these countries becoming republics, regardless of whether Harry and Meghan were still around. And I think that’s true, although that’s one of those what-if “butterfly effect” scenarios with more far-reaching implications. Like, if Harry and Meghan had stayed, they would still be treated like sh-t and William and Kate would still be bullying them and ripping them to shreds constantly and it would probably be an even bigger mess… a mess which would be played out internationally. But generally, I agree – there was nothing stopping the historical trend of Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas seeking to dump the British monarchy. But the fact of the matter is that Will and Kate’s tone-deaf colonialist tour absolutely sped up the process big-time. And that’s on them. They have to wear that. Charles will make sure that they wear it.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Instar.
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