Prince Charles tells of his ‘deep personal sorrow’ at slavery in heartfelt speech to Commonwealth leaders


PRINCE Charles today described “my own personal sorrow” over slavery during the “most painful period of our history” in his opening speech to Commonwealth leaders.

The Prince of Wales also reaffirmed a commitment any nation which wishes to ditch the Queen as head of state has the Royal Family’s blessing.

Prince Charles with Rwanda president Paul Kagame yesterday
Charles and Camilla last night at a reception in Kigali

Prince Charles reportedly branding the PM’s Rwanda migrants policy ‘appalling’

But addressing leaders of 54 nations with a population of 2.6billion – including 15 that are still realms of the British monarch – he hailed the organisation as a “force for public good”.

His speech to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda’s capital Kigali came before a cuppa with Boris Johnson today amid a furious dust-up over the government’s asylum policy.

King-in-waiting Charles outlined his “mission” saying: “I know Her Majesty The Queen stands with us all”.



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He said the wealthier nations have an “obligation” to help “vulnerable” members states and “be a force for global public good”.

And he told the leaders: “To achieve this potential for good, however, and to unlock the power of our common future, we must also acknowledge the wrongs which have shaped our past.

“Many of those wrongs belong to an earlier age with different – and, in some ways lesser – values. 

“By working together, we are building a new and enduring friendship.

“In Canada recently, my wife and I were deeply touched to meet many of those engaged in the ongoing process of reconciliation – indigenous and non-indigenous peoples reflecting honestly and openly on the darkest aspects of history.

“As challenging as that conversation can be, people across Canada are approaching it with courage and unwavering commitment; determined to lay a foundation of respect and understanding upon which a better future can be built.

“It seems to me that there are lessons in this for our Commonwealth family. 

“For while we strive together for peace, prosperity and democracy I want to acknowledge that the roots of our contemporary association run deep into the most painful period of our history.

“I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many, as I continue to deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact.

“If we are to forge a common future that benefits all our citizens, we too must find new ways to acknowledge our past. Quite simply, this is a conversation whose time has come.”

After the speech Charles is set to pose for photos with Mr Johnson and other heads of state at around 9.45am

He will have a cup of tea with the PM at 11am UK time and then host an hour-long reception with Boris and other world leaders from 12.15pm.

Yesterday Mr Johnson urged Charles to keep an open mind over the policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Charles sparked a massive row with No10 after reportedly branding the PM’s flagship migrants strategy “appalling”.

Boris said he would try to win Charles round if he raised the deportations issue.

But as the row threatened to overshadow the global get-together, both sides scrambled to downplay the dust-up.

No10 said it was “unlikely” the PM would raise the matter when the pair meet today.

But earlier in the day, Boris defended his policy when quizzed on the Prince’s opposition. He said: “The critics need to keep an open mind. A lot of people can see its obvious merits.”

He also said:  “People need to keep an open mind about the policy, the critics need to keep an open mind about the policy.

Asked if he would make the case to Charles if it is raised, he added: “Of course. I am going to be making that point.”

He said Rwanda has come on in “leaps and bounds” since the 1994 genocide of 800,000 people.

And he said the nation’s hosting of the summit is an opportunity for the world, and his deportation critics, to see it is a booming country safe for immigrants.

Boris said: “I am delighted that Prince Charles and everybody here is today to see a country that has undergone a complete, or a very substantial, transformation.”

The plan to send illegal immigrants who arrive in Britain on small boats to Rwanda has hit the buffers after judges in Strasbourg stopped the first flight taking off.

Yesterday it emerged Britain has handed over the entire £120million payment for the scheme.

‘Fix the problem’

Rwanda says it is raring to go and has set up “Hope Hostel” to welcome the migrants.

Defiant Boris said it is the only way to smash trafficking gangs. He added: “This is a plan that I think is necessary and right to fix the problem of illegal cross-Channel trafficking of people whose lives are being put at risk by the gangs.

“You have to break the gangs’ business model.” He also said Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s bombs could be sent to Kigali if they arrive here illegally.

Charles’s aides are privately worried at the PM’s barb. But sources close to the Prince said he and Boris are “unlikely” to discuss the migrants policy over tea. Instead they will focus on climate change, education for girls, and Charles’ passion for the Commonwealth.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson would stick to the script.

At the heads of state summit, Charles will say it “is a matter for each member to decide” if they wish to become a republic. He will say: “The benefit of long life brings me the experience that arrangements such as these can change, calmly and without rancour.”

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Fifteen realms still have the Queen as head of state including Australia, Canada and New Zealand and all are in the Commonwealth of 54 members.

Barbados removed its ties with the Queen in December and Jamaica plans to follow.

Charles visited a nature reserve in Rwanda yesterday

Boris Johnson dancing with young Rwandan musicians yesterday

Prince Charles in Rwanda today for the Commonwealth leaders meeting
Boris Johnson and wife Carrie arrive in Rwanda today