Of Sunsets and Empires
King Charles III
The World Around Us
May 5, 2023
Of Sunsets and Empires

The Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III will take place on Saturday 6th May, 2023. The Coronation Ceremony will see His Majesty crowned alongside The Queen Consort. According to Buckingham Palace, the Coronation will reflect the monarch’s role today and look towards the future.

Research conducted by former United Kingdom (UK) Conservative Party Deputy Chairman Lord Michael Ashcroft, shows six out of 14 Commonwealth nations, would vote to remove Charles as their Head of State. Based on Lord Ashcroft’s poll, Australia, Canada, The Bahamas, Jamaica, the Solomon Islands, and Antigua and Barbuda – would vote to ditch the monarchy.

Meanwhile, according to Ashcroft’s survey, nearly all of the other eight Commonwealth nations with Charles as Head of State – New Zealand, Belize, Grenada, Papua New

Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tuvalu – hang in the balance. In the UK, Ashcroft’s study revealed that there is still overwhelming support for the monarchy.

According to Ashcroft’s poll, “Nearly all agreed that the Royal Family needs to modernise in order to have any chance of surviving.”

There was a time when the phrase ‘the empire on which the sun never sets’ was very applicable to the UK. This was mainly in the 19th and 20th centuries when the British

Empire was at its zenith and spanned the length and breadth of the earth.

The era of British rule was particularly painful. The genocide committed against indigenous peoples throughout the Caribbean and other parts of the Americas, the forced removal of Africans from their homelands, and the maintenance of a brutal system of enslavement of African people throughout the Americas, continue to be a blot on British history.

Of course, these events were painful then and they continue to be painful today. Whilst some would want us to forget and move on, there are some pains which the passage of time does little to erase. In the context of hundreds of thousands of years of human history, the passage of a few hundred years since the end of slavery is not a very long time.

What is also concerning is that those responsible for the aforementioned historical wrongs, have done little by way of redress, not even by way of a simple apology.

King Charles III, whose Coronation will be celebrated with much pomp and pageantry, comes from a family and an institution with direct historical links to slavery. In 1562, John Hawkins was the first known English person to include enslaved Africans in his cargo, a journey that was approved by Elizabeth I. In 1564, Hawkins arranged another voyage, for which Elizabeth I funded a vessel.

Writing for The Guardian in March 2022, Tobi Thomas reminds us that in 1660, the Royal African Company was established by the Duke of York, who later became James II. His brother Charles II was also involved in this venture. According to the Slave Voyages website, the Royal African Company was prolific within the slave trade. In this regard, between 1672 and 1731, the Royal African Company transported more than 187,000 slaves from Africa to English colonies in North, Central and South America.

Thomas also notes that between 1690 and 1807, an estimated 6 million enslaved Africans were transported from west Africa to the Americas on British or Anglo-American ships. According to Thomas, the slave trade was protected by the Royal Family and the British parliament.

While it is difficult to estimate what extent of the current Royal Family’s wealth is owed to slavery, it is widely accepted that the profits of the slave trade funded the UK Treasury, as well as it’s industries, buildings, railways, roads and parks.

Given this background, Charles’ crowning is personally, a difficult event to celebrate. It is time to let the sun set on these trappings of empire once and for all.


Joel K Richards is a Vincentian national living and working in Europe in the field of international trade and development. Email: joelkmrichards@gmail.com