Prince William told a Ukrainian community event it was “very alien” to see war in Europe, reportedly contrasting it with Africa and Asia, in comments that have been slammed as “horrific” by Martin Luther King’s daughter.
Bernice King linked the Duke of Cambridge’s remarks to colonialism after William and Kate Middleton visited the Ukrainian Cultural Center in London to support the relief effort on March 9.
The outcry heaps new pressure on the royals just days after the one-year anniversary of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s Oprah Winfrey interview, during which they accused an unnamed royal of racism.
And it comes little more than a week before William and Kate are due to tour the Caribbean from March 19 to March 26.
A report by the Press Association suggests William had also said Britons were more used to seeing conflict in Africa and Asia, though the remark was paraphrased and not directly quoted.
Quoted by the Press Association, Prince William said: “It’s very alien to see this in Europe. We are all behind you.”
Bernice King, chief executive of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, wrote on Twitter: “Horrific comment. European people ran roughshod over the continent of Africa, pillaging communities, raping women, enslaving human beings, colonizing for profit and power, stealing resources, causing generational devastation. And European nations continue to harm Africa.”
Human rights lawyer Qasim Rashid wrote on Twitter: “Prince William says conflict is “very alien” to Europe, unlike Asia & Africa.😐
“How do you have a 1,000 year history of colonialism, a literal 100 year war, launch 2 World Wars, allow multiple genocides, & bomb a dozen nations since 9/11 alone—yet make this type of a statement.”
Royal biographer Omid Scobie, author of Finding Freedom, wrote on Twitter: “Unsurprised to see backlash against Prince William’s ignorant remark (reported by@PA).
“Europe has seen some of the bloodiest conflict in the past two centuries—Balkans, Yugoslavia, Germany and Kosovo to name a few. But sure, let’s normalize war and death in Africa and Asia.”
It is not the first time Prince William has been accused of colonial comments, after he linked the pressure on wildlife in Africa to the human population in a November speech.
The duke said: “The increasing pressure on Africa’s wildlife and wild spaces as a result of human population presents a huge challenge for conservationists, as it does the world over.”
And a photo of Prince William being carried on a throne went viral in the aftermath of the Oprah interview in 2021.
In the famous interview, Meghan told CBS how an unknown royal family member had made disparaging comments about how dark their child’s skin might be before Archie was born.
She said: “So we have in tandem the conversation of ‘He won’t be given security, he’s not going to be given a title’ and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”
The queen released a statement saying the royals took the comments seriously but acknowledging “some recollections may vary.”
William was the first to comment in person, telling journalists days after broadcast: “We are very much not a racist family.”
Britain’s empire covered a quarter of the world at its height, including India and most of South Asia as well as much of Africa and the Caribbean.
The new backlash comes as William and Kate prepare for a tour of the Caribbean as part of celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.
Among the countries on their schedule is Jamaica, where there have been recent debates about removing the monarch as head of state, with one party in the 2020 elections pledging to hold a referendum on the subject.
The latest episode of Newsweek‘s The Royal Report podcast discussed the possibility of a backlash against the Cambridges during their tour.
For more royal news and commentary check out Newsweek‘s The Royal Report podcast:
A recent editorial in Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner read: “First, this newspaper is deeply uncomfortable, which we believe is the disposition of the majority of Jamaicans, of having the monarch of Great Britain, which, at this time is Queen Elizabeth II, as our country’s head of state.
“Who holds this position is no meaningless symbolism. It ought to be an important reference point of who we are, and the aspirations we hold as a sovereign nation and people.
“The patriarch of a dysfunctional family in the United Kingdom that defined Jamaica’s long colonial experience is not, therefore, an appropriate symbol.”
Update at 3/10/22, 6:32 am ET with additional information