Prince William reached out to the U.K.’s Caribbean community while delivering a heartfelt speech in South London for Windrush Day.
On Wednesday morning, the Duke of Cambridge addressed how he and wife Kate Middleton are learning how the “past weighs heavily on the present” following their controversial tour of the Caribbean in March, marking the first time the couple received significant backlash on a royal tour due to rising tensions in the Caribbean nations over William’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth II remaining head of state.
William applauded the British-Caribbean community’s contribution: “My family have been proud to celebrate this for decades — whether that be through support from my father on Windrush Day, or more recently during my grandmother’s Platinum Jubilee, as people from all communities and backgrounds came together to acknowledge all that has changed over the past 70 years and look to the future.
“This is something that resonated with Catherine and me after our visit to the Caribbean earlier this year. Our trip was an opportunity to reflect, and we learned so much. Not just about the different issues that matter most to the people of the region, but also how the past weighs heavily on the present.”
In celebration of Windrush Day, the royal couple unveiled the National Windrush Monument at Waterloo Station. The celebration was named for the Empire Windrush, a ship that brought hundreds of Caribbean immigrants, dubbed the Windrush Generation, to the U.K. in June 1948 to help fill a labour shortage following the Second World War, ultimately helping cities and industries rebuild.
Windrush Day became an official day of celebration by the U.K. government in 2018 amid the Windrush Scandal, in which hundreds of Caribbean immigrants were wrongly targeted by immigration enforcement.
Prince William acknowledged the scandal, arguably making his most political comment in a speech to date.
“Only a matter of years ago, tens of thousands of that generation were profoundly wronged by the Windrush Scandal. That rightly reverberates throughout the Caribbean community here in the U.K., as well as many in the Caribbean nations.”
He commended the diversity that is “so important to our country” and honoured Caribbean workers, noting that they “made our culture richer, our services stronger, and our fellow countrymen safer.”
The National Windrush Monument at Waterloo Station was designed by Jamaican artist Basil Watson, to create a lifelong place of reflection, offering a greater “understanding of the Windrush Generation’s talent, hard work, and loyalty to Britain, inspiring future generations forever,” said the couple’s office at Kensington Palace.
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The duke added that the monument “is an acknowledgment of the contribution of [passengers of the Empire Windrush] to one of the most important elements of our national infrastructure.” William explained: “when the Windrush Generation sailed from the Caribbean to rebuild war torn Britain,” they answered “a plea to help our country thrive again.”
“These people didn’t have to come,” he said. “They volunteered to fight for king and country — in the full knowledge that many would never make it home again.
“I understand how much we owe to these men and women. Today’s ceremony would not be complete without remembering their sacrifice.”
Queen Elizabeth II recognized the unveiling of the memorial in a message, saying it “serves as a fitting thank you to the Windrush pioneers and their descendants, in recognition of the profound contribution they have made to the United Kingdom over the decades.”