Prince William and Kate Middleton meet Jamaica bobsleigh team amid row over slavery

British royals are on a week-long visit to the Caribbean as part of Queen Elizabeth's platinum jubilee celebrations

Kate Middleton and Prince William tried out a bobsleigh made for two under the watchful eye of Jamaica’s latest Cool Runnings team.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived in Jamaica this week to a much publicised demonstration calling on the monarchy to pay reparations for slavery on the island.

But political issues were brushed aside when the royal couple met members of Jamaica's bobsleigh team on Tuesday.

When Prince William clambered into the training sled during a visit to Bob Marley’s old Kingston neighbourhood of Trench Town, Kate did not hesitate and jumped in behind him.

Chatting to women and men from the bobsleigh team they talked about the popular movie Cool Runnings, which immortalised the 1988 Jamaican Winter Olympic team.

The duke, who is touring the Caribbean with the duchess to mark Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee, said: “One of our favourites, ah so good.”

The future king also played with one of his sporting heroes in a match with young local footballers.

Kingston-born England international Raheem Sterling received a rapturous applause whenever he touched the ball and there were screams for the duke – and a few ironic ones when he fluffed a shot.

Dozens of locals stood behind a wire fence to watch the sporting spectacle unfold and others sat on roofs to get a better view.

The footballer, who was given special dispensation by England manager Gareth Southgate to travel to Jamaica ahead of the national team playing at the weekend, was joined on the pitch by a player from Prince William’s beloved Aston Villa in Jamaican Leon Bailey.

Manchester City’s Sterling, who was mobbed by spectators, said of Southgate: “He said to me an opportunity like is a great one and it’s an experience that will live with you forever.”

The player was there as part of his efforts to improve social mobility for young people.

The Raheem Sterling Foundation has set out plans to work with partners in Jamaica, Manchester and London to give disadvantaged youths opportunities to break out of poverty.

When Prince William, who is president of the Football Association, was first taken over to meet Sterling and Bailey, he turned to Kate and said: “Two heroes of mine. These two are the fastest in the team.”

Later the royal couple travelled to reggae legend Bob Marley’s home, which is now a museum, and played drums with some reggae musicians in the courtyard where Jamaica’s biggest superstar learnt to perform.

There was excitement in the neighbourhood when the pair were mobbed by crowds who chanted, “We love you, we love you”, as they walked to Trench Town Culture Yard and Museum in Jamaica’s capital.

The visit to Marley’s former home and the brief match was a celebration of the singer’s twin passions.

Marley, who died in 1981 from skin cancer at the age of 36, was a keen amateur footballer who played regularly in Battersea Park when he lived in London. He supported Tottenham Hotspur and the Brazilian team Santos.

The royal couple were welcomed to Trench Town by Babsy Grange, minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport, and Mark Golding, the leader of the opposition and MP for the area.

In the museum, Sophie Dowe, one of the directors of the attraction, showed them around the courtyard dwellings where Marley and his friends learnt to play music.

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Prince William, who like Kate enjoys Marley’s music but is a bigger fan of other types of music including hip-hop, said: “So much musical history was made here.”

He and Kate went into the room where Marley wrote some of his best-known music. They were also shown around the singer’s spartan bedroom, where a stool stood beside a single bed near a mural on a wall.

Before they left, the couple went into a neighbouring courtyard where a group of reggae musicians were singing Rastafarian nyabinghi chants backed by drummers.

Kate was quickly coaxed into trying out a drum but Prince William took more convincing before joining in a royal jamming session with the singers and other drummers.

During a dinner on Wednesday evening hosted by the governor general of Jamaica the duke is expected to acknowledge the issue of slavery.

The duke and duchess will attend an official meeting with Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness during the day, and later travel to Shortwood Teacher Training College for an event that will highlight Jamaica’s work on childrens' early years development.

Prince William and Kate will also tour Spanish Town Hospital, which is celebrating its 70th birthday this year, and hear first hand how frontline staff have responded to Covid-19 and how the pandemic has affected the healthcare system in Jamaica.

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Updated: March 23, 2022, 2:47 PM
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