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Past Royal visits to Belize show monarchy’s interest in national development

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Posted: Sunday, March 20, 2022. 8:58 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Though infrequent and tied more to their schedules than ours, a majority of the most senior members of the British Royal Family have attended Belize in the last half-century.

As Belize welcomes Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, it is noteworthy that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s younger sister, Princess Margaret, beat her to visiting Belize in 1958 (a previous visit from another member of the family was canceled earlier in the 1950s amidst nationalist sentiment). This was when the current Princess Margaret Drive in Belize City was opened and named after her.

Though not strictly a Royal visit, Prince Michael, Duke of Kent and the Queen’s cousin, was here for Independence in 1981.

The Queen herself first visited an independent Belize in 1985, one of two occasions in which she addressed the National Assembly in person. At that time, she said, per Channel 5 News, “Respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law have made this country a notable example of how freedom can work in practice. A climate is being created where personal initiative and free choice have become a matter of choice for every Belizean. What you have achieved augers well for the future development of the nation but it must be carefully nurtured and strengthened and then passed on to future generations.”

Her Majesty would return with late husband the Duke of Edinburgh in 1994; on that occasion, she spoke with remarkable foresight of the importance of critical reflection on Belize’s emerging problems such as crime: “Many of the changes which we have witnessed are to be applauded and encouraged. Many have helped the disadvantaged to achieve their proper place in society. But some – the increase in crime being an obvious example – have done damage to society and it is up to us to keep that society strong enough to withstand any assault from whatever quarter. It is never enough to treat symptoms alone. Such measures as the strengthening of law enforcement agencies and criminal justice systems are worthwhile, but we must simultaneously look at the real roots of the disease. That oftentimes means a process of honest and sometimes uncomfortable self-examination by a nation as a whole. But Belize is capable of that.”

There were less heralded visits from Anne, Princess Royal, in 2001, and Prince Andrew, Duke of York, in 2002. The last Royal visit was that of Prince Harry for barely 24 hours in 2012, on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee.

The Duke and Duchess’ tour is the first leg of a Caribbean tour in celebration of the Platinum Jubilee for the Queen, now approaching 96 years of age and content to assign much of the heavier royal duties, such as these extended events, to other members of the royal family. But in her speech marking the Platinum Jubilee in February, she recommitted herself to continued service to the Commonwealth and United Kingdom for as long as she lives.

 

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