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After protesters in Jamaica called on Britain and its monarchy to pay reparations and apologize for its human rights abuses and dominant role in the global slave trade, Prince William expressed his “profound sorrow” over the horrors of his country’s past.

During a speech given this evening, March 23, at a dinner hosted by Jamaica’s governor general, the Duke of Cambridge told guests, including senior politicians and dignitaries, “I want to express my profound sorrow. Slavery was abhorrent. And it should never have happened.”

The future king stopped short of mentioning reparations, but added, “While the pain runs deep, Jamaica continues to forge its future with determination, courage, and fortitude. I strongly agree with my father, the Prince of Wales, who said in Barbados last year that the appalling atrocity of slavery forever stains our history.”

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Kate Middleton Prince William Jamaica
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William explained that he was raising the issue in a week that marks the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

“The strength and shared sense of purpose of the Jamaican people, represented in your flag and motto, celebrate an invincible spirit,” he said. “It is this same spirit that spurred on the Windrush generation, who came to the United Kingdom to help rebuild after the Second World War. We are forever grateful for the immense contribution that this generation and their descendants have made to British life, which continues to enrich and improve our society.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were guests of honor at a state dinner at the Kings House in Kingston, Jamaica, where the couple are wrapping up their fifth day of a three-country tour of the Caribbean. “All my family have enjoyed their visits here so much,” William told guests. “They have waxed lyrical about the warmth and sense of fun of the Jamaican people and the beauty of this island.”

Kate—who wore a green Jenny Packham gown and emerald jewelry set loaned by Queen Elizabeth II—watched from her seat as William also paid tribute to his grandmother and her 70-year reign during his speech. “It is no secret that the queen has a deep affection for Jamaica, forged on her very first visit here with my grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, in 1953,” he said. “Her dedication, commitment, and sense of duty to the Commonwealth family is deeply admired. She may be my actual grandmother, but everyone counts her as their grandmother too. And I’m okay with that!”

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Earlier in the day, the couple met with Jamaican prime minister Andrew Holness, who told them that though he has been “happy” to welcome them to the country, they plan to remove the queen as head of state and become a republic.

During their meeting at his Vale Royal residence, Holness made reference to the protests taking place when the Cambridges arrived on Tuesday. “Jamaica is very free and liberal, and the people are very expressive, and I am certain that you would have seen the spectrum of expressions yesterday,” he said. “There are issues here which are, as you would know, are unresolved. But your presence gives an opportunity for those issues to be placed in context, put front and center, and to be addressed as best we can.”

He continued, “Jamaica is, as you would see, a country that is very proud of our history and very proud of what we have achieved. And we are moving on and we intend to attain, in short order, our development goals and fulfill our true ambitions and destiny as an independent, developed, prosperous country.”

As BAZAAR.com exclusively reported, government officials will officially begin the process of removing the queen as head of state after William and Kate leave tomorrow, March 24. “It’s a long and arduous process, but having already put the wheels in motion, it will be full steam ahead in the coming weeks and months,” a senior government source said.

Though there are hopes for a completion goal of August 6, the date of the country’s 60th Independence Day, a senior source in the Parliament of Jamaica—where an official has already been appointed to oversee the transition to a republic—told BAZAAR that, “realistically, it could take longer, but at the very least people will know it is officially in progress.”

This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.

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