When Prince Charles touches down on Grand Cayman next month, he will find an island much changed since his last official visit 46 years ago. But we are certain that he and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will find unchanged our residents’ loyalty to his mother Queen Elizabeth II and cherishing of our status as part of the British Commonwealth.
It is somewhat felicitous that the two royals will arrive in the midst of the ongoing 60th anniversary celebration of the Cayman Coat of Arms, a symbolic representation of our political, cultural and historic ties with Britain. Our mutually beneficial relationship with the United Kingdom was deliberately sought by a prudent generation of Caymanian leaders (and continues to be valued by the vast majority of our population) amid a tumultuous time wherein many of our Caribbean neighbors declared independence from European colonial powers that once oversaw their development and affairs.
Setting aside serious but relatively marginal political disagreements (i.e., the U.K. Parliament’s imposition of beneficial ownership registries upon its territories), Cayman continues to pledge allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. School days open to the tones of “God Save the Queen,” and her visage beams down upon us in government facilities and greets new arrivals at Owen Roberts International Airport – the opening ceremony of which Prince Charles and Camilla will participate in, during one of their first scheduled appearances on Grand Cayman.
The royal couple’s two-day visit will include meetings with Governor Martyn Roper and Premier Alden McLaughlin, sojourns to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, and a tour of the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Gardens, named for and opened by Prince Charles’s mother in 1994. At the Botanic Gardens, he will participate in the much-awaited opening of the children’s garden, while the Duchess of Cornwall visits George Town Primary School and the opening of the new Jasmine hospice center.
Their presence elevates the ceremonial luster of these events – ensuring they will be remembered for a lifetime, just as those who were here for Her Majesty the Queen’s visits in 1983 and 1994 can recall the visits in minute detail.
Visits from members of the British Royal Family are always cause for celebration. It will be the first visit from a member of the British Royal Family since 2016, when Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex and patron of the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, made the most recent of several trips to Little Cayman and the CCMI Little Cayman Research Centre there.
As we wrote during last fall’s visit by four Tory MPs, the more high-profile visitors from the U.K. we are given the opportunity of hosting, the better. In an age when “offshore” has been warped into a disparaging adjective, it is critical that decision-makers and influencers witness firsthand what our islands have to offer, and meet the real people influenced by political dictates from thousands of miles away.
We wrote at the time: “We are not so naïve as to think the current contentiousness between Cayman and Great Britain can be resolved by a brief ‘goodwill tour’ – no matter how pleasant. Still, we allow ourselves to hope the four MPs will serve as willing and capable advocates for our community – forming a ‘bridge over troubled waters,’ so to speak.”
Accordingly, next month’s visit from Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall presents an important opportunity – in addition to the usual pomp and pageantry – to solidify further the pragmatic aspects of the U.K.’s and Cayman’s relationship.