Edward, Sophie Criticized for Giving Photo of Themselves to Caribbean Hosts

Queen Elizabeth II's youngest son, Prince Edward, and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex have received criticism online for presenting Saint Lucian Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre with a signed photograph of themselves on a recent royal visit.

The presentation of the photograph formed part of a traditional and formal exchange of gifts during the royal couple's ongoing tour of the Caribbean. The tour has already been met with criticism coming in the wake of the hotly debated tour of the area undertaken by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in March. The Cambridge tour was accused of suffering a series of major PR blunders which included poorly chosen photo opportunities and engagements with colonialist undertones.

Edward and Sophie were photographed presenting a signed photograph of themselves to Pierre on the first day of their visit to Saint Lucia last week. Given the recent discussions surrounding colonialism and insensitive royal photo opportunities which plagued the Cambridge tour, this move by the Wessexes was not met favorably online.

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Prince Edward and wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex presented a signed photograph of themselves to Saint Lucian Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre o their tour of the Caribbean. April 22, 2022. Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Nadine White, race correspondent for The Independent, highlighted the image on Twitter, writing: "#ICYMI: Prince Edward & Sophie gave the PM of St Lucia a framed photo of themselves as a gift after visiting the country as part of their Platinum Jubilee tour."

In another tweet, White posted a close-up image of Pierre's reaction, writing: "A high-res photo of St Lucia PM, Philip J. Pierre, receiving his gift from the Wessexes."

Rossalyn Warren, Reuters audience editor, commented on the absurdity of the Wessexes' gift, telling followers on Twitter: "when I visit another country I also give the hotel a framed photo of myself as a thank you."

Journalist Ricardo Brooks voiced disbelief at the gesture, which bears resemblance to some of the poorly chosen photo opportunities of the Cambridge's Caribbean tour. This included the Cambridge's posing for photographs with locals behind a chain link fence and appearing to recreate images of the queen and Prince Philip dressed in white in the 1960s.

Brooks wrote: "These people are so tone deaf it's amazing."

NYU law professor Melissa Murray also highlighted the absurdity of the gift in contrast to the wider issues surrounding the tour, posting to Twitter: "When they're giving out autographed photos but what you *really* want is reparations."

The subject of reparations has become increasingly discussed in relation to members of the royal family following the Cambridge's tour, with many activists and protest groups citing grievance with a 2015 speech by then-British Prime Minister David Cameron on a visit to Jamaica. In the speech, he said he hoped all involved would "move on" from the "painful legacy" of slavery.

Ahead of the Wessexes tour they were issued an open letter from the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission which detailed the royal family's historic links with the transatlantic slave trade and warned the couple against showing "phony sanctimony" as other royals have done on previous tours.

The letter also charged the couple to "call for reparations," stating that "everyone in your family continues to live in the splendor, pomp and wealth attained through the proceeds of the crimes [of slavery]."

These calls, which were echoed on William and Kate's tours of Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas, as well as the criticism of the perceived PR blunders, have given rise to discussions about the validity of royal tours in their current form moving forward.

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Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex's signed presentation photograph given to Saint Lucian Prime Minister, Philip J. Pierre, April 22, 2022. Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Speaking on Newsweek's The Royal Report podcast, royal biographer Omid Scobie explained that he believes a modern formula for undertaking royal tours was adopted by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle when they visited South Africa in 2019 but that since then it has been discarded.

"I think we have seen in the past where a tour has been able to set the tone from the very beginning," Scobie told chief royal correspondent Jack Royston.

"I remember being in briefings for the Sussex's tour of southern Africa and how it was Buckingham Palace staff who really went out of their way to say that this tour would be a little different. That the couple would be mindful of the politics within the local areas that they were visiting, that we wouldn't be seeing state dinners, that there wouldn't be the expensive wardrobes that you're used to on a royal trip.

"So that was proof that at one point the palace did know how to make these things work in a modern environment."

Scobie was not alone in his assessment that the current formulaic way in which royal tours are run is outdated.

Following the Cambridge's visit to the Caribbean, Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir wrote: "What this week showed is that the days of the big royal overseas visit are surely numbered.

"The very idea that the Royal Family should sally forth, in all their finery and jewels, to faraway lands to meet people they expect to bow and curtsey to them, or pay homage at the very least, is an increasing absurdity."

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Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex met with Prime Minister of Saint Lucia Philip J. Pierre during their tour of the Caribbean. Photographed (L) in Sweden, June 19, 2010. And Prime Minister Pierre, (R) photographed on April 22, 2022. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images/Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Edward and Sophie Wessexes tour of the Caribbean, visiting Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda, concludes on Thursday.

Originally, the couple's visit was to include a stop on the island of Grenada but a statement released by Buckingham Palace before the trip's commencement read: "In consultation with the Government of Grenada and on the advice of the Governor General, The Earl and Countess of Wessex's visit to Grenada has been postponed. The Earl and Countess hope to visit at a later date."

No further explanation for this "postponement" was given though it provoked a disappointed reaction from reparations activists on the island.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Arley Gill, chairman of the Granada national reparations committee, commented that: "We wanted the royal couple to go back to the queen and to let her know that Grenada is owed reparations by her family and Great Britain. They need to be aware that we want reparations for all that they have done in the past."

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