The Countess of Wessex helped hoist a disabled sailor into a boat and hugged an eight-year-old boy as part of her visit to Antigua and Barbuda’s National Sailing Academy – after the couple were warned by the nation’s PM that the country wants to become a republic.
Sophie, and her husband the Earl of Wessex, heard about the Sail-Ability programme, which offers people with disabilities, especially children, the opportunity to get involved in water activities.
The countess first sounded a loud horn to signal the start of a boat race between Duke of Edinburgh students, before saying: ‘I didn’t value my hearing at all.’
She then proceeded to help wheelchair user Alexzandrina Looby, who is in her 40s, into a boat by lowering her down gently using a winch.
Ms Looby was one of a small number of people who have benefitted from the programme that Sophie and Edward saw in action on Monday.
Before leaving the National Sailing Academy, the countess was given a card by eight-year-old Aleccai Brown which read: ‘Welcome to Antigua… Edward and Sophie’ followed by a picture of the island’s flag.
Young Aleccai is a pupil at the Victory Centre, which is a non-profit special needs school based on Antigua. The countess then gave the youngster two hugs before departing for another engagement.
The Wessexes are in the Caribbean to mark the Queen‘s Platinum Jubilee year, just weeks after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelled to the region in March amid claims elements of their tour became colonialesque after they greeted black children in Jamaica through fences and inspected troops from the back of a Land Rover.
The visit to the sailing academy was a world away from the awkward moment the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda told the Earl and Countess of Wessex it is his country’s wish to ‘one day become a republic’.
Sophie Wessex sounded a loud horn to signal the start of a boat race between Duke of Edinburgh students, before saying: ‘I didn’t value my hearing at all’
The Countess of Wessex hugs Aleccai Brown as the Earl of Wessex looks on during a visit to the National Sailing Academy
The Countess of Wessex plants a tree at Clarence House in English Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda as she and the Earl of Wessex continue their visit to the Caribbean
The Earl and Countess will meet communities, local entrepreneurs and craftspeople, and young people, in celebration of the culture, future and vibrancy of the islands
The Earl of Wessex (centre) at Clarence House in English Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda, as he and the Countess of Wessex continue their visit to the Caribbean
The Countess of Wessex meets with the rowing team during a visit to the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua and Barbuda
The Wessexes are in the Caribbean to mark the Queen ‘s Platinum Jubilee year, just weeks after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelled to the region in March amid claims elements of their tour became colonialesque
Gaston Browne’s remarks came at a meeting between Edward and Sophie, Mr Browne and his cabinet during their visit to the island – and are a direct echo of Jamaican PM Andrew Holness, who told Kate and William on their own tour that his country is ‘moving on’ to become a republic.
Despite the Antiguan PM stating the country would one day want to change position, he acknowledged that it is ‘not on the cards’ at the present moment. However, he urged them to use their ‘diplomatic influence’ to achieve ‘reparatory justice’ for the island of Antigua and Barbuda.
Mr Browne told the Wessexes: ‘You will have noticed there are no protestations here,’ adding that they were not ‘holding placards’. He said the decision not to protest was because they believed in having an ‘open and very objective discussion’.
The PM said he understood the royal family did not get involved in ‘contentious issues’ but said he wanted them to ‘understand these issues… so you can use your diplomatic influence in achieving the reparatory justice that we seek’.
Mr Browne added: ‘The reality is we have been left and bereft of modern institutions such as universities and medicinal facilities.’
It came as a royal expert slammed British diplomats for leaving the Wessexes ‘humiliated’ and ‘let down’ on their challenging Caribbean tour by repeating the same mistakes made when William and Kate visited last month.
The Earl of Wessex plants a tree at Clarence House in English Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda, as he and the Countess of Wessex continue their visit to the Caribbean
The Earl of Wessex (centre) at Clarence House in English Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda, as he and the Countess of Wessex continue their visit to the Caribbean
The Countess of Wessex during a visit to the National Sailing Academy to hear about the Sail-Ability programme
Edward and Sophie have been branded ‘oligarchs’ by protesters who want to remove the Queen as head of state of their islands and are demanding money and a full apology for past ‘crimes against humanity.’ The Grenada leg of the Earl and the Countess of Wessex’s Caribbean tour was even postponed a day before their week-long trip began. It later emerged Grenada’s Reparations Commission on slavery wished to meet with them.
Royal biographer Tom Bower told MailOnline that poor planning has left the Wessexes facing the some woes as the Cambridges suffered last month.
He said: ‘Once again, Foreign Office officials in London and the High Commissioner in Grenada failed to anticipate the problems and protect the Wessexes from the same humiliation which cursed the Cambridges’ visit to Jamaica.
‘Britain’s diplomats are not only incompetent but dangerously ignorant and insensitive to the realities in the countries where they are employed’. He added: ‘It does not help that so many are still ‘working from home’.’
He added: ‘Equally, Palace officials let the Wessexes down by failing to check that the Foreign Office diplomats had done their job properly.’
Gaston Browne’s (second from right) remarks came at a meeting between Edward and Sophie, Mr Browne and his cabinet during their visit to the island today
Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, speaking to Mr Browne – who asked her and Prince Edward to use their ‘diplomatic influence’ to achieve ‘reparatory justice’ for the island of Antigua and Barbuda
Sophie, Countess of Wessex shakes hands with members of the Antiguan cabinet as Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, looks on
Despite the Antiguan PM telling the Wessexes (pictured) that his country would one day want to change position, he acknowledged that it is ‘not on the cards’ at the present moment
Prince Edwards laughs and gesticulates during the meeting with Mr Browne and the rest of his Cabinet during their royal tour
The Wessexes arrive at VC Bird International Airport, Antigua and Barbuda, as they continue their visit to the Caribbean to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The trip has been hit by more protests like when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge came to the region last month
Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Sir Rodney Williams, Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda Lady Sandra Williams and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, in St John’s TODAY
Edward and Sophie (pictured today) have a full day of engagements planned for Monday’s visit, including a trip to the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium where they will meet former West Indies cricketers
Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, inspects troops as they landed on the island. The Wessexes will return to the UK on Thursday
The Queen heads out this morning on the Sandringham Estate to see her horses ahead of the Epsom Derby
The Queen beams as she is driven to see her horses at Sandringham – as it emerges she and Prince Charles are ‘keen’ to welcome Harry and Meghan to ‘family’ Jubilee events
The Queen is all smiles as she heads out this morning on the Sandringham Estate
The Queen looked a picture of happiness today as she continues her 96th birthday celebrations with friends and family at Sandringham amid the ongoing tribulations involving her grandson Prince Harry.
Wearing sunglasses and a trademark headscarf, Her Majesty grinned and chatted as she headed out into the Spring sunshine on her Norfolk estate.
The monarch is taking the time to see her horses as they prepare for the flat racing season including the Epsom Derby in June, which she hopes to attend during her Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
It came as it emerged she and Prince Harry’s father Prince Charles are both very ‘keen’ for him, his wife and children to jet in from California to mark the Queen‘s 70 years on the throne.
Buckingham Palace is said to have promised the Sussexes full armed security at all Royal Family events in June in a bid to reassure them after Harry said he felt ‘unsafe’ in Britain.
But despite Her Majesty and Prince Charles removing the main obstacle for Harry, Meghan, Archie and Lilibet attending, the Duke of Sussex is still said to be genuinely undecided about whether to jet in to celebrate his grandmother’s 70 years on the throne.
A palace source told the Sunday telegraph that ‘the ball was in his court’, adding: ‘His grandmother and father keen to welcome the Sussexes to ‘family’ events’.
It would mean that the Sussexes would be welcomed onto the Buckingham Palace balcony with the rest of the royals to watch a RAF flypast and the Trooping the Colour on June 2, the Queen’s official birthday.
But they would be unable to attend working elements of the Jubilee, having quit as frontline royals when they emigrated to Canada and then Los Angeles two years ago.
The Foreign Office said previously that the royal Jubilee visits are organised by the host countries and are not official Government trips. But planning for overseas royal events is led by the British government in line with Foreign Office priorities, with civil servants liaising with Buckingham Palace and the host nation in advance of the royals arriving.
On Antigua and Barbuda today, the Earl and Countess of Wessex have a full day of engagements planned, including a trip to the Sir Viv Richards Stadium where they will meet former West Indies cricketers.
Jomo Thomas, former chairman of the National Reparations Committee, said that people want to show their disgust that their governments had decided to ‘lay down the red carpet for invaders’, adding: ‘Edward and his entourage should not be fêted in our land’.
He said: ‘They hunted us down, they kidnapped us, they stole us, they worked us. They owe us and they must now pay us’.
After William and Kate arrived home from the Caribbean there was an inquest at the Palace after unfortunate photo calls that led to accusations they were echoing Britain’s colonialist past rather a more down-to-earth future.
The couple are said to have hardened their view the Monarchy must be ‘agile’ to survive and thrive after their week-long tour was hit with protests. They are understood to be ready to abandon the Queen and Prince Charles’s ‘never complain, never explain’ mantra in future.
Politicians hijacked their presence ahead of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee to further their own campaigns to remove the Queen as head of state amid moments branded ‘tone deaf’ and smacking of ‘colonialism’.
Prince William held crisis talks with senior aides on his week-long tour around the Caribbean, telling advisers he had to add his own voice and confront issues of slavery reparations and anti monarchist sentiment. The Duchess of Cambridge will do more solo work overseas without William, insiders claimed.
Yesterday the Wessexes were criticised by St Lucia’s most famous DJ after he slammed the royal Jubilee tour on air yesterday – asking how it benefits the islanders and demanded to know how much taxpayers were paying for it.
Prior to their Caribbean tour, the country’s Reparations Support Commission penned an open letter to the couple saying: ‘For us, they are the source of genocide and of continuing deep international injury, injustice and racism.
‘We hope you will respect us by not repeating the mantra. We are not simpletons.’
On their visit to the island, the couple will first receive a guard of honour at the VC Bird International Airport before meeting the country’s Prime Minister and members of his cabinet.
They will then travel to Government House where they are due to present three Platinum Jubilee medals to three people to recognise their service to national security.
Edward and Sophie will also speak to some of the country’s craftspeople, creatives and community groups, and the countess will speak to women about their work towards female empowerment.
The couple are scheduled to visit the National Sailing Academy, where they will meet children who have benefitted from a programme which offers people with disabilities the opportunity to get involved with water activities.
Sophie Wessex was the picture of summer chic yesterday as she joined her husband Prince Edward at church in St Lucia on the third day of their Caribbean tour
The Countess of Wessex, 57, sported a white polka tee dress and brushed her hair back into a low ponytail while her husband, 58, sported a suit as they attended the service at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church
Slavery in Antigua and Barbuda
The history of slavery in Antigua and Barbuda stretches as far back as 1674, when the first sugar planation was established by Barbadian-born British soldier Christopher Codrington, who was also a plantation and slave-owner.
Within four years, half of the Antigua’s population was made up of African slaves who had been shipped from Africa’s west coast in horrendous conditions.
Whilst tobacco, indigo and ginger crops were also grown, it was sugar that became the dominant source of revenue for the planation owners on the island nation.
Toiling for hours in the hot sun, the slaves were fuelling the burgeoning thirst for sugar back in England.
Antigua’s flagship plantation was Betty’s Hope. Many of its sugar mill towers still stand as a legacy of enforced enterprise that once took place.
One of Antigua’s national heroes is the slave Prince Klaas, who in 1736 planned an uprising that led to him being executed.
But even after emancipation, former slaves continued to work on Antiguan plantations continued in their old roles for a paltry wage due to the absence of alternative sources of income.
The British Caribbean territories with history of slavery
The Caribbean Community, a regional organisation, set out to ask for slavery reparations from Britain, France and the Netherlands in 2013 but no island has yet received any payment.
During his Caribbean tour with the Duchess of Cambridge last month, Prince William described the slave trade as ‘abhorrent’ and a ‘stain on our history’ after protests took place.
Here is a list of the islands affected by slavery:
A population census of 1671 of the Bahamas colony counted 443 slaves.
The birthplace of British slave society and the most ruthlessly colonised by Britain. It ended in 1834. The country was made independent from Britain in 1966. Between 1627 and 1807, approximately 387,000 enslaved Africans were sent to Barbados.
Slaves were imported to help cut logwood on the island. In 1820 there were 2,563 slaves in Belize.
There were never more than 6,000 slaves in Bermuda. The largest Bermudian slaveholder in 1663 owned only seventeen slaves. They were often known as indentures rather than slaves and contracts would run up to 20 years.
British Leeward Islands
Saint Kitts and Nevis
The first census of Saint Kitts, in 1671, recorded 1,739 African slaves. Six years later this grew to 3,849. a year later 1,436 slaves were recorded in Nevis.
In 1819, there were 360 Europeans, 320 free Africans, and 2451 slaves.
Antigua and Barbuda
Most of the saves in Antigua and Barbuda disembarked from the Bight of Biafra (22,000 Africans) and the Gold Coast (16,000 Africans).
British Virgin Islands
Emancipation freed a total of 5,792 slaves in the Territory.
Number of slaves started out as 523 in 1672, and had risen to 10,000 in 1774.
British Windward Islands
Became a British colony in 1763 at the Peace of Paris which ended the Seven Years War with France. At that time the island had a population of 1,718 Frenchmen and 5,872 slaves working on coffee, cocoa and spice production.
By the 1750s, there were 12,000 enslaved people in Grenada.
The 1730 census showed 463 occupants, including just 125 whites, 37 Caribs, 175 slaves, and the rest free blacks or mixed race.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
St Vincent and the Grenadines gained its independence from Britain in 1979.
At the time of abolition in 1834, there were more than 950 slaves owned by 116 Caymanian families.
By the 1660s, the enslaved population numbered about 2,500.
The British took over in 1796 and remained in possession, except for short intervals, until 1814, when they purchased Demerara, Berbice and Essequibo, which were united in 1831 as the colony of British Guiana.
The British Invasion of Jamaica took place in May 1655, during the 1654 to 1660 Anglo-Spanish War, when an English expeditionary force captured the Spanish colony.
Oliver Cromwell increased the island’s European population by sending indentured servants and prisoners. There were 300,000 slaves in Jamaica in 1831.
Trinidad and Tobago
When the island was surrendered to the British in 1797 the population had increased to 17,643: 2,086 whites, 4,466 free people of colour, 1,082 Amerindians, and 10,009 African slaves.
Turks and Caicos Islands
In 1822, the islands reported just more than 1,900 slaves.
To complete their tour of the island the earl and countess will visit Clarence House where they will plant a tree to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
They will also attend a reception in celebration of Antigua and Barbuda’s culture and traditions, and will learn about local delicacies and produce.
Yesterday the couple had another setback on their Caribbean tour as St Lucia’s biggest radio host criticised the Jubilee tour – asking how it benefits the islanders.
Sam Flood, host of Tells It Like It Is on Saint Lucian radio, slammed the visit saying: ‘I would like to know what is the purpose of this royal visit and who is paying for it.
‘They kept a reception at the Governor’s house for the Prince and Princess and I would like to know whether all those attending were wearing any face masks for protection.
‘Who paid for the drinks and food that was being consumed at the Governor’s house? Did the Royal family sponsor it or did our government?’
He added: ‘What is the purpose of this trip to Saint Lucia? How are Saint Lucia and its people benefitting from this trip? What have we done to deserve this trip? I would like to know who is benefitting from this Royal visit.” Who really are these royals and what is their significance? It is not like they are quite high up in the Royal family. Who are they and what will they bring to the island that will benefit us as a people.’
Mr Flood broadcasts in a Saint Lucian French creole, the language spoken by more than 90 per cent of locals.
The royal couple landed in St Lucia on Friday where they received a warm welcome with a red carpet rolled out before travelling to St Vincent and the Grenadines on Saturday – where they were met by a group of around 15 protesters who displayed placards, which included ‘end to colonialism’, ‘£CompensationNow’, ‘down with neo-colonialism’ and ‘Britain your debt is outstanding’, as they made their way to Government House on the island.
Yesterday, they were back in St Lucia to be received by Arch Deacon Christian Glasgow.
The Earl and Countess also visited Morne Fortune, a Saint Lucia National Trust site, where they were shown the monuments to St Lucian Nobel Laureates, Sir W Arthur Lewis and Sir Derek Walcott and learned more about the country’s history.
The two engagements carried out by the couple avoided crowds, with the small service beginning their day.
Edward and Sophie are due to travel to Antigua and Barbuda on Monday, where an organisation has already warned the pair to avoid ‘phoney sanctimony’ over slavery.
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.
Sophie and Edward were greeted in the sunshine by the deputy prime minister Dr Ernest Hilaire and the ADC to the governor general Captain Cyril Saltibus after they disembarked their British Airways flight at Saint Lucia’s Hewanorra International Airport on Friday afternoon.
Sophie, wearing a red dress, joined her husband as they walked down the red carpet to a platform, where Edward stood to receive the guard of honour while the island’s police band performed the country’s national anthem.
The pair are also met the prime minister of Saint Lucia Philip Pierre and the acting governor general Cyril Errol Melchiades Charles later on Friday.
Yesterday, the red carpet was rolled out yet again as the Earl and Countess of Wessex arrived at Argyle International Airpor, while steel drums playing One Love by Bob Marley welcomed them to the island.
However not everyone seem too impressed by their arrival, as Sophie was forced to duck from a swooping Amazona guildingii – the island’s national bird – during a visit to the botanical gardens.
As she entered the aviary, the countess was unaware of one bird resting on the cage above her.
Before she was followed into the enclosure by her husband the Earl of Wessex, it swooped down just over the top of her head, forcing her to immediately duck down. Her sunglasses fell forwards onto her face to the sound of laughter from those present.
Sophie did eventually get used to the bird, however, and by the end of her tour, she was feeding them from the palm of her hand.
The week-long tour will see Sophie and Edward ‘meet communities, local entrepreneurs and craftspeople, and young people’ as well as athletes training for the Commonwealth Games.
No further details were given for Thursday’s postponement of the Grenada leg of the tour.
It is understood that the planning of the royal tour involved discussions between the host countries, royal officials and other parties.
The chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission, Dorbrene O’Marde has told a local radio station: ‘Essentially, it supports the positions taken by other…people as far as the issue of reparation is concerned and the inability of the absence of an apology from the Crown both as family and as an institution for their role in the enslavement of African people in the slave trade and in the slavery of African people.’
It follows Prince William and Kate Middleton’s trip to the region last month, which saw the couple face backlash over ‘avoidable PR’ errors.
William and Kate were greeted as rock stars in Belize, Jamaica and now The Bahamas – with cheering crowds chanting ‘we love you’ – but they also faced challenges in three nations with burgeoning campaigns for complete independence from the UK and demands for slave trade reparations.
There were several missteps, including pictures of the couple shaking hands with black children through a wire fence in Trench Town, Jamaica. They were also accused of taking part in ‘colonial-style’ photo opportunity by riding around in a 1953 Land Rover inspecting troops, with William wearing military uniform.
The future king was also accused of being ‘tone deaf’ and not showing the ‘courage’ to apologise for the slave trade in a landmark speech, while the opening event in Belize had to be postponed because of protests.
The jubilee schedule is one of the first signs of the new look monarchy, with Prince Andrew and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex previously making similar overseas trips.
The Queen, who no longer flies, would not have been expected to travel, but it’s rare for Wessexes to do a high profile joint overseas tour that might have otherwise been handed to Harry and Meghan.
It’s long been believed that Prince Charles will ‘slim down’ the monarchy when he becomes king to eight key members.
The trips to the Caribbean islands will see the senior royals on a charm offensive following in a bid to shore up support for the monarchy in the region.
In November, Prince Charles visited Barbados for a ceremony to mark its historic decision to remove the Queen as head of state.
Other Commonwealth countries in the region, including Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Dominica, already have their own heads of state.
Last year, John Briceno, the Prime Minister of Belize, did not rule out his nation following suit, saying: ‘We need to find what fits Belize best.’
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
The Earl and Countess (pictured in church this morning) will also visit Morne Fortune, a Saint Lucia National Trust site, where they will be shown the monuments to St Lucian Nobel Laureates, Sir W Arthur Lewis and Sir Derek Walcott and learn more about the country’s history
Sophie and Edward are also scheduled to Antigua and after the 11th hour postponement of the Grenada leg of their trip