William and Kate have cancelled a major engagement planned for the start of their Caribbean tour after villagers staged a protest over the royals’ visit.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were due to tour a cacao farm in Belize during the first full day of their tour on Sunday, but the event has now been removed from the schedule by their office.
The issue threatens to overshadow the start of the couple’s eight-day tour to Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and raises questions about the planning of the trip.
Demonstrators had voiced opposition to the royals’ visit due to a dispute over “contested property” between residents of Indian Creek village and Flora and Fauna International (FFI), the conservation charity that William supports as patron.
The landing site for the Cambridges’ helicopter reportedly caused further problems amid claims residents were not consulted about the location, which is on the local football pitch, according to local Belize media outlet Channel 7.
A protest was reportedly staged on Friday opposing the royal visit to Akte ‘il Ha cacao farm.
Photographs posted on social media showed demonstrators holding signs including one which read: “Colonial legacy of theft continues with Prince & FFI.”
Image from today’s protest at Indian Creek, Belize: “Colonial Legacy of THEFT continues with Prince & FFI” (ref to Flora and Fauna International, in dispute over communal land rights) Photo from Maya Culture Belize FB pic.twitter.com/uYYYylSG4P
— Kate Quinn (@KateQuinnUCL) March 18, 2022
Sebastian Shol, chairman of Indian Creek village, told the Daily Mail: “We don’t want them to land on our land, that’s the message that we want to send. They could land anywhere but not on our land.”
A Kensington Palace spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that due to sensitive issues involving the community in Indian Creek, the visit has been moved to a different location – further details will be provided in due course.”
The Belize government said in a statement: “Indian Creek was one of several sites being considered. Due to issues in the village, the Government of Belize activated its contingency planning and another venue has been selected to showcase Maya family entrepreneurship in the cacao industry.”
Analysis by Rhiannon Mills, royal correspondent
These high profile royal tours are always planned so carefully but there are some things even the palace can’t control – and one of them is people’s feelings.
Without even stepping foot in Belize yet, William and Kate’s arrival appears to have caused some upset.
From a PR perspective, the fact that it involves the first major engagement of their tour to a cacao farm isn’t ideal.
But as they embark on this trip to three Commonwealth realms – Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas – it’s a reminder of the complex issues at play in all three countries when it comes to their relationships with the UK.
The objections to their farm visit are tied up with issues over land and involve echoes of Britain’s colonial past.
As they move on to Jamaica they’re likely to have to confront the calls for the island to become a republic.
It certainly won’t be the first time that William and Kate have faced difficult conversations on a royal tour.
How much they will publicly acknowledge those issues, we can only wait and see.
Channel 7 said the background to the situation centred on tensions between citizens and the state about the “meaning of consent in the context of communal land rights – rights to lands that were expunged in the colonial period by the British”.
Voyager, the ministerial jet, will fly the Cambridges throughout their tour along with their 15-strong entourage, which is likely to include Kate’s hairdresser Amanda Cook Tucker and other personal staff, along with private secretaries and their press office team.
Highlights of the couple’s tour will see them renew their friendly sporting rivalry when they take to the waters for a sailing regatta in the Bahamas in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
In Jamaica, the Cambridges are due to celebrate the island’s musical and sporting heritage amid speculation Usain Bolt may be involved.