Prince Charles tells Commonwealth leaders 'it's time to have a conversation about slavery'

Heir to British throne said family of nations cannot realise its potential until wrongs of past are addressed

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Britain’s Prince Charles has acknowledged the impact slavery had on the Commonwealth’s “most painful period” of history and said the time has come to have a conversation about past injustices.

Addressing Commonwealth leaders in Rwanda's capital Kigali on Friday, the Prince of Wales said the potential of the family of nations for good cannot be realised until we all “acknowledge the wrongs which have shaped our past”.

He told the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) he was on a personal journey of discovery and was continuing to “deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact”.

The heir to the throne said he recognised the roots of the Commonwealth, which go back to the British Empire, “run deep into the most painful period of our history” and acknowledging the wrongs of the past was a “conversation whose time has come”.

But despite Prince Charles’s decision to use his address to delve into the sensitive and contentious subject, he stopped short of issuing an apology for role the royal family played in the slave trade.

For centuries, British royals supported and facilitated the trade or profited from it.

Prince Charles told the gathering of prime ministers and presidents, who included Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he could not “describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many” during slavery.

In recent years, the royals have started to discuss the legacy of slavery.

Earlier this year, Prince William and his wife Kate faced protests during a Caribbean tour from demonstrators demanding an apology for the royal family’s role in facilitating slavery.

The Duke of Cambridge called the practice “abhorrent” and expressed his “profound sorrow”. But he did not issue the apology locals had hoped for and the tour was dubbed a PR disaster by many observers.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Prince Charles at a gathering of Commonwealth leaders in Rwandan capital Kigali on Friday. Getty

Following his speech in Kigali, Prince Charles held a much-anticipated meeting with Mr Johnson.

The behind-closed-doors discussion took place two weeks after the Prince of Wales criticised the UK government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Before they met, Mr Johnson had stepped back from comments that he would tell Prince Charles to be open-minded about the initiative.

Updated: June 24, 2022, 12:57 PM