Prince William and Kate Middleton Fly Home from The Bahamas After Addressing Tour Controversy

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge received an official farewell as they boarded their jet for the U.K.

kate and prince william
Kate Middleton and Prince William leave The Bahamas on March 26. Photo: getty

After an intense eight-day tour of the Caribbean, Prince William and Kate Middleton are heading home to the U.K.

On Saturday evening, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge boarded their RAF VIP Voyager jet after wrapping their tour in The Bahamas. For her final appearance on the tour, Kate wore a belted yellow floral peplum dress by Alessandra Rich.

Just hours before their flight, William released an unprecedented statement about the controversy that has followed the couple on their tour of Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas.

For the first time, the royal couple faced significant backlash on an official tour. Although they have received warm welcomes from many locals, they are also encountering mounting tensions in the Caribbean nations where William's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, remains head of state.

Earlier in the tour, and following anti-colonial protests in Jamaica and Belize, William, 39, expressed his "sorrow" at the "abhorrent" history of slavery that shames the U.K. — though for some, he didn't go far enough and actually apologize.

kate and prince william
Kate Middleton and Prince William. getty

The protests are only the latest evidence of the historic shift underway: Another Caribbean country, Barbados, broke ties with the Queen in November — voting in its first president — and Jamaica will soon follow suit.

William reflected on the future governance of the Caribbean nations in his statement on Saturday, saying, "I know that this tour has brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future. In Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas, that future is for the people to decide upon."

He continued, "Catherine and I are committed to service. For us, that's not telling people what to do. It is about serving and supporting them in whatever way they think best, by using the platform we are lucky to have."

"It is why tours such as this reaffirm our desire to serve the people of the Commonwealth and to listen to communities around the world. Who the Commonwealth chooses to lead its family in the future isn't what is on my mind. What matters to us is the potential the Commonwealth family has to create a better future for the people who form it, and our commitment to serve and support as best we can," he concluded.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attend a reception hosted by the Governor General at Baha Mar Resort on March 25, 2022 in Nassau, Bahamas.
Kate Middleton and Prince William. Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage

The rising tide of social and economic justice movements — including calls for slavery reparations and indigenous rights expansion — are rapidly reshaping contemporary views of the monarchy at a time when it is in transition: As Elizabeth, 95, marks 70 years on the throne, William and Kate are increasingly the modern face of both the family and the institution.

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"The future of the British monarchy is more about William and Kate—spiritually, not in terms of actual succession," historian Sarah Gristwood tells PEOPLE in this week's issue.

"The baton of the crown has to pass to Charles and Camilla, but there is a sense of a baton also being passed from the Queen to William and Kate. Charles and Camilla have a lot of life experience between them, and they're not going to change. The future belongs with the Cambridges," she adds.

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