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Unpacking the Royal Family’s Controversial Stance on Slavery: Why Prince Harry’s Recent Admission Holds Weight

January 17, 2023 | By Kali Girl

The publisher of Prince Harry’s new memoir Spare says it’s selling at a record-setting pace. Readers bought more than 1.4 million copies of the Duke of Sussex’s book the day it was published last week, and it’s still making headlines. One thing Harry put down on paper that has continued to stoke debate was a brief comment that his family had made a fortune from the trans-Atlantic slave trade, reports CBS News. Britain’s centuries-old monarchy is known for many things, from pomp and pageantry to family discord. Its historical connection to slavery, however, has been far less a part of the public discussion, at least until recently.

Prince Harry’s new memoir, “Spare,” has set a record for sales, with over 1.4 million copies sold on the day of its release. The book has continued to generate headlines and spark debate, particularly due to Harry’s comment about his family’s connection to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. While the British monarchy is known for its grandeur and drama, its ties to slavery have been a less frequently discussed aspect of its history – until now.

The British monarchy has a long history of involvement in the financing and profits of the transatlantic slave trade, and the branding of enslaved Africans with the initials of senior members of the royal family, according to reparations expert and lawyer Esther Stanford-Xosei.

In a recent interview with CBS News, Stanford-Xosei highlighted the direct involvement of James II, also known as the Duke of York, as the governor of the Royal African Company, one of the major business enterprises involved in the enslavement and transportation of Africans in the 17th and 18th centuries. Despite contemporary members of the royal family, including Prince William, expressing remorse for their ancestors’ role in the slave trade, no official apologies have been made.

“The appalling atrocity of slaver forever stains our history,” William said on a visit to Jamaica last year. “I want to express my profound sorrow.”

Stanford-Xosei suggests that Prince William’s reluctance to apologize is rooted in a fear of the legal and financial ramifications it could bring to the monarchy. Protests in Jamaica, where William and Kate visited last year, have called for not just an apology, but reparations for past wrongs. Despite this, William recognizes that the monarchy’s wealth is built upon a history of exploitation.

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