Prince William Expresses His 'Profound Sorrow' About Britain's Role in the Slave Trade: 'The Pain Runs Deep'

"Slavery was abhorrent. And it should never have happened," the Duke of Cambridge said in a landmark speech in Jamaica on Wednesday

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Prince William speaking in Jamaica on March 23, 2022. Photo: Samir Hussein/WireImage

Prince William is expressing his deep "sorrow" for the horrors of the slave trade — and the role that Britain played in it.

"I want to express my profound sorrow. Slavery was abhorrent. And it should never have happened," he said in a landmark speech in Jamaica on Wednesday evening that acknowledged his country's role in the trafficking of people to the Caribbean and the United States.

"While the pain runs deep, Jamaica continues to forge its future with determination, courage and fortitude," he continued. "The strength and shared sense of purpose of the Jamaican people, represented in your flag and motto, celebrate an invincible spirit."

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He echoed the words of his father Prince Charles, who denounced the "appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history," in a speech he made in Barbados last year at the country's transition ceremony, which saw Barbados remove Queen Elizabeth as head of state and swear in its first president.

William said he "strongly" agreed with his father's statement.

William and Kate Middleton attended the official dinner at King's House, the residence of the Governor-General of Jamaica, Sir Patrick Allen, who represents Queen Elizabeth. The couple is currently on the second leg of their tour of the Caribbean in honor of the monarch's Platinum Jubilee.

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Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness watch as Prince William, Duke of Cambridge speaks on stage during a dinner hosted by the Governor General of Jamaica at King's House. Samir Hussein/WireImage

His address comes amid anti-colonial protests and calls for Jamaica to drop William's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, as head of state.

During a meeting with Jamaica's Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, earlier on Wednesday, Holness directly addressed his country's intention to break away from the British monarchy.

"There are issues here, which as you know, are unresolved, but your presence gives us an opportunity for those issues to be placed in context, to be out front and center and to be addressed as best we can," he told William and Kate during their meeting. "But Jamaica is, as you would see, is a country that is proud of its history and very proud of what we have achieved. And we're moving on and we intend to… fulfill our true ambitions and destiny to become an independent, developed and prosperous country."

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Patricia Allen, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Governor General of Jamaica Sir Patrick Allen pose during a dinner reception at King's House. Samir Hussein/wireimage

As William continued his speech, he spoke of his time in Jamaica on behalf of the Queen, who has a "deep affection" for the country.

"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. "And, likewise, I have been touched to hear today from Jamaicans, young and old, about their affection for The Queen."

"She may be my actual grandmother, but everyone counts her as their grandmother, too," he said. "And I'm ok with that!"

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Samir Hussein/WireImage

He also spoke about the "immense contribution" that Jamaicans have made to British life and reflected on some of the high points of their time in the country. He referred to the couple's visit to Shortwood Teachers' College, which gave his wife "inspiration" for her work on early childhood development. Their trip to Trench Town on Tuesday afternoon was also a highlight.

"Already in our short time here, Catherine and I are delighted to have felt what Bob Marley described so many years ago – the spirit of 'one love' that Jamaica has given to the world and which makes this country so special," he added.

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Kate Middleton and Prince William. Samir Hussein/wireimage

He also loved meeting "some of the world's best footballers" — Raheem Sterling and Leon Bailey, soccer players who were born in Jamaica and now play in the U.K.

"Leon plays for the best football team in the world, the mighty Aston Villa!" said William, who is a fan of the team in the U.K.

He concluded, "Catherine and I only wish we had more time to spend with you all in Jamaica. There is so much more to learn. I hope this will be one of many visits. And next time we'd love to bring our children too. Governor-General, thank you again for hosting us all tonight. I hope you all have a happy evening. And 'one love.' "

William and Kate will conclude their visit to Jamaica on Thursday, before traveling to the Bahamas — another of the Queen's realms — for the final leg of the Caribbean tour.

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