Earl and Countess of Wessex: Prince Edward and Sophie postpone Grenada trip

By Charley Adams
BBC News

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie, Countess of WessexImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Earl and Countess of Wessex leave for their seven-day trip on Friday

The Grenada leg of the Earl and the Countess of Wessex's Caribbean tour has been postponed, a day before their week-long trip begins.

The decision was made after talks with the island's government and governor general, Buckingham Palace said.

Prince Edward and Sophie will still visit other islands on the tour to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.

It comes after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were criticised for some parts of their recent Caribbean tour.

A Buckingham Palace source said discussions were held with host nations to ensure the itinerary would meet the aims of the tour, which are to celebrate the islands and mark the Queen's 70-year reign.

Within those discussions, Grenada - on the advice of Dame Cecile La Grenade, its governor general and the Queen's representative in the country - suggested a postponement.

No further detail has yet been given about the reason for the delay. Prince Edward and Sophie hope to visit the island at a later date, the palace said.

Their tour of three Caribbean nations - St Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda - will begin on Friday.

The plan must have seemed straightforward - send members of the Queen's family to her Realms (the countries where she is Head of State) to celebrate their culture and futures in this, her Platinum year. Yes - Princess Anne had a controversy-free trip to Australia and Papua New Guinea earlier this month and next month Prince Charles will travel to Canada. But the negative headlines which buffeted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's Caribbean tour last month will have concentrated Palace minds.

Although no reason has been given for the postponement of the Earl and Countess of Wessex's trip to Grenada, the key word in the brief statement announcing the change of plan must be "consultation". In Belize, the protest that derailed the Cambridges' trip on its very first day was reportedly because local people felt they had not been consulted on the plans for the visit.

Last year, Barbados removed the Queen as its head of state. Last month, welcoming Catherine and William to his country, the Jamaican prime minister made clear his wish to do the same. Politicians in Grenada have called for a referendum on whether to become a republic. The country's reparations committee - which is calling for compensation from Britain as a result of the slave trade - says it requested an audience with the royal couple.

So maybe the reason Grenada was dropped is that it was felt a visit may be deemed too political and a risk from a PR perspective. As the Cambridges found out, tours that once may have provided picturesque photo opportunities can now be viewed as a reminder of darker times involving colonialism and slavery. The palace will be hoping enough "consultation" has been done to ensure the Earl and Countess receive a warm welcome on the islands that remain on the itinerary.

In March, part of Prince William and Catherine's Caribbean tour was axed after opposition from locals. The pair had been due to visit a cacao farm in the foothills of the Maya Mountains but it was removed from the couple's schedule following reports of a protest opposing the royal trip.

Other moments on their tour were criticised as public relations missteps - for example a Land Rover trip that was described as having a colonial appearance, and the greeting of local children through a wire fence.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the Caribbean for their first overseas trip since the start of the pandemic

Grenada gained independence from the UK in 1974 when Eric Gairy became the island's first prime minister.

The National Democratic Congress, a liberal opposition party, has previously said it would put the question of whether the Queen should be head of state to a referendum. It also congratulated the prime minister of Barbados for having taken this step ahead of the island becoming a republic last year.

The press secretary for the prime minister's office in Grenada said there was a mutual agreement between the parties to postpone the visit.

During the upcoming tour, Prince Edward will conduct an investiture on behalf of the Queen and the couple will attend a service to mark the Platinum Jubilee.

The couple are due to meet local communities, Commonwealth Games athletes, craftspeople and women in leadership roles during their trip.