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King Charles urged to acknowledge Britain's "legacy of genocide and colonization" on coronation day

"Heirs of Slavery" group launched
New "Heirs of Slavery" group launched in U.K. 05:44

London — Ahead of the coronation of King Charles III, indigenous and other advocacy groups from 12 British Commonwealth countries have called on the new British monarch to, on the date of his coronation, "acknowledge the horrific impacts on and legacy of genocide and colonization of the indigenous and enslaved peoples." 

King Charles remains the official head of state for members of the British Commonwealth, a group of countries that were part of Britain's former colonial empire.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall Visit the Caribbean - Day 11
Then-Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visit the Jamaican Defence Force Officers Mess, March 14, 2008, in Kingston, Jamaica. Anwar Hussein/WireImage/Getty

In a letter dated May 4, representatives from organizations from Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines call on King Charles to "immediately commit to starting discussions about reparations," repatriating remains and returning cultural artifacts.

"We stand united in engaging a process to right the wrongs of the past and to continue the process of decolonisation," the letter says. "We are united in our struggle to create a world free of the vestiges of racism and oppression that still pervade today and are a direct legacy of the dehumanisation of our First Peoples and enslaved peoples that has occurred throughout the colonial era."

Nova Peris, a former Australian senator and the co-chair of the Australian Republican Movement who signed the letter, said in a statement that the group was looking to "King Charles for an apology, reparation, and repatriation of our artefacts and our remains and to acknowledge the horrific and enduring impacts of the legacy of genocide and colonization of the indigenous and enslaved peoples." 

Nova Peris, co-chair of the Australian Republican Movement, is shown in this screengrab of a video released on May 2, 2023. Nova Peris

She shared a petition with the group's demands and asked that people sign it in solidarity ahead of the coronation.

Conversations around the legacy of slavery, colonialism and empire in the United Kingdom have increased in recent years, and were reinvigorated after the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September.

Descendants of some of Britain's wealthiest slave owners have recently called on the U.K. government to publicly apologize and atone for the country's historical links to slavery, including a second cousin of King Charles, the Earl of Harewood.

"We're accountable for that legacy today," Harewood told CBS News last month.

But while Buckingham Palace said in April that it was cooperating with an independent investigation into the monarchy's connections to slavery, no members of the royal household has formally apologized for it, opting instead to express sadness.

Commonwealth realms consider breaking ties with the crown in the wake of the queen's death 04:04

At a meeting of Commonwealth heads of state in June last year, King Charles said, "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."

In March of 2022, Prince William and Kate, the Princess of Wales, were met by protesters during a visit to Jamaica who demanded an apology for the monarchy's role in slavery, along with reparations from the United Kingdom.

"The appalling atrocity of slavery forever stains our history," William said during the visit. "I want to express my profound sorrow."

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