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Updated December 7th, 2023 at 17:57 IST

From calls for reparations to chants of 'not my king': How world's stance on Charles' reign shifted

Following King Charles III's acknowledgement of the enduring impact of slavery, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley raised fresh calls for reparations.

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UK's King Charles III at the grand State Opening of Parliament. | Image:AP
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Following King Charles III's acknowledgement of the enduring impact of slavery, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has raised fresh calls for reparations. While advocating the need for reparations to former colonies, Mottley mentioned that Barbados was owed $4.9 trillion by slave-owning nations, adding that the conversation over how this debt should be repaidwould be extremely difficult”, The Guardian reported. The calls for reparation by the Barbados premier came days after Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter noted that the United Kingdom owes reparations to the African nations it had colonised in the 18th and 19th centuries.

“We’re not expecting that the reparatory damages will be paid in a year, or two, or five because the extraction of wealth and the damages took place over centuries. But we are demanding that we be seen and that we are heard,” Mottley said during her address at the London School of Economics. On Tuesday, she met with the UK’s new Foreign Secretary and former British Prime Minister David Cameron. While stressing that she won't reveal Cameron’s take on the matter, Mottley said that Cameron would acknowledge the matter in the same way Charles did during his address at COP28. “I’m not going to get into the details of our conversation but [it would] suffice to say I think the foreign secretary will take his lead from his majesty,” she said.

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The King and Queen, accompanied by The Prince and Princess of Wales William and Catherine, Image: X - @RoyalFamily

The popularity of the British monarchy tumbled following the death of erstwhile British monarch Queen Elizabeth II. While some demand atonement from the UK royal family, others believe that the institution of monarchy has become ‘redundant’ in today's day and age. Here’s a look at how the people’s outlook towards the British monarchy changed over time.

Renewed calls for reparations

For time immemorial, erstwhile Colonies have been demanding reparations from their former Colonisers. These colonies have insisted that their colonisers have exploited their resources and stunted the potential growth a colony could have witnessed without them. Since Great Britain ruled over most of the world during the 18th and 19th centuries, the demands for reparations from the UK remain more prominent.

Mottley’s calls for reparations came days after Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter made similar demands. “If there can be an acknowledgement of what was done to countries to colonise because we are still suffering a great deal from colonisation, in as far as our culture as Black people is concerned,” she said in an interview, following King Charles’ speech at COP28. “So there has got to be first admission of the fact that yes, we acknowledge that we displaced you as a people. Then we can talk of reparations,” she explained, adding that reparation would be the beginning of the “healing” process.

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Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley renews calls for reparations at the London School of Economics, Image: @miaamormottley

Similar demands were raised by nations like Kenya, which witnessed the brutality of British rule. However, the UK government has been less inclined to give people what they want. Earlier this year, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak dismissed calls for the government to apologise and pay reparations for the UK's historical role in slavery. When Labour MP  Bell Ribeiro-Addy asked if Prime Minister Sunak would make a "full and meaningful apology" and "commit to reparatory justice". The PM said "no", adding "Trying to unpick our history is not the right way forward". Hence the calls for reparations have become more prominent now than ever before.

‘Not My King’: How the monarchy faces backlash at home

In May this year, when King Charles III was getting crowned in the historic coronation ceremony, hundreds of people gathered on the side of the road and chanted slogans of ‘Not my king’. On the day of the coronation,  more than 1,500 protesters, dressed in yellow for maximum visibility gathered with signage that read the same three-worded message. British Republican activists have long struggled to build momentum to dislodge Britain’s 1,000-year-old monarchy. But they saw the coronation as a moment of opportunity. Queen Elizabeth II, who died in September after 70 years on the throne, was widely respected because of her longevity and sense of duty. Charles is another matter, a 74-year-old whose family feuds and firm opinions on everything from architecture to the environment have been headline fodder for decades.  In a recent study by the National Center for Social Research, just 29% of respondents thought the monarchy was “very important” – the lowest level in the centre’s 40 years of research on the subject. Opposition was highest among the young. With the reducing significance of monarchy and King Chalres’ controversial life, the reputation of the British royal family has reached an all-time low.

Protestors wait for the arrival of King Charles III with placards that read ‘not my king’, Image: AP

How Charles’ reign is different from his mother

Charles’ reign was relatively different from her mother's, the longest-service British monarch Queen Elizabeth II. For starters, Charles has been extremely vocal about various issues. The calls for reparations reignited in the first place after Charles mentioned that  “time has come” to acknowledge the enduring impact of slavery. “ “To forge a common future, that benefits all our citizens, we too must find new ways to acknowledge our past … This is a conversation whose time has come,” the British monarch said during his address at the COP28 summit. However, he did not make any references to financial reparations. Apart from this, King Charles III has been a vocal advocate for environmental protection insisting that the world needs to address the issue of climate change. In today’s day and age, when technology enables people to be more vocal, more people have started to question the relevance of monarchy in the day and age of democracy. 

Woman smiles looking at the portrait of King Charles III ahead of his historic coronation, Image: AP

(With Inputs from AP)

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Published December 7th, 2023 at 16:34 IST

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