Prince Charles has said the contribution of Jamaicans to the United Kingdom has been “immeasurable” as he marked the country’s Diamond Jubilee.
The Prince of Wales said the Jamaican diaspora “remains a vibrant, well-loved and respected part of our society”, and remarked that the strong relationship between Britain and Jamaica has been “forged through the centuries, and continues to be strengthened by the myriad connections between our people”.
The words from the heir to the throne were read by the Right Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Bishop of Dover, at a service of praise and thanksgiving in Birmingham to commemorate Jamaica’s independence day.
In his message, Charles said: “The contribution of Jamaicans to the life of this country has been immeasurable.
“The United Kingdom owes a profound debt of gratitude to the many Jamaicans who proudly served in the British armed forces in the First and Second World Wars, and to those who, in 1948, sailed on the HMT Empire Windrush from Jamaica to the United Kingdom to help us rebuild our country from the ravages of war.
“The 800 Jamaicans who arrived in the Windrush have come to symbolise a whole generation.
“Their courage, ingenuity and determination, and that of their children and grandchildren, continues to shape and enrich our communities and our society.
“To mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush pioneers, and those who arrived in subsequent vessels, I have commissioned portraits of some of their number who came from across the Caribbean to start a new life here.
“My hope is to use this project to honour and further celebrate that very special generation, and to ensure that all they did for this country is forever understood and appreciated.
“Today, the Jamaican diaspora remains a vibrant, well-loved and respected part of our society.
“Its influence is felt in every area of our public life, across all aspects of our culture, and in every sector of our economy. We are a stronger, more dynamic society as a result.”
Charles said he recently met Jamaican athletes and was reminded of his visits to Jamaica over the years, including in 1966 when he attended the Commonwealth Games with his father and his sister.
“It is a visit that I remember with great fondness and which I know my father enjoyed,” he said.
Barbados took the historic move of replacing the Queen as head of state in November last year and elected its first president during a ceremony witnessed by Charles.
During the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s March visit to the Caribbean, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness suggested to the royal couple his country may follow suit.
Next year marks 75 years since the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks in 1948, bringing people from the Caribbean, at the invitation of the British government, to help rebuild the UK in the aftermath of the Second World War.
From the late 1940s to 1971, thousands of men, women and children left the Caribbean for Britain.
But in the Windrush scandal, members of the Windrush generation and their children were wrongly detained and even deported – and others denied access to official documents, healthcare, work, housing benefits and pensions – despite living legally in the UK.
A report into the scandal, published in 2020, found it was “foreseeable and avoidable”, with victims let down by “systemic operational failings” at the Home Office.
The department demonstrated “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness” towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation, the review found.
The Prince of Wales, known as the Duke of Rothesay when in Scotland meeting local community groups after meeting volunteers and supporters of Caithness food bank at Carnegie Library in Wick Andrew Milligan
The Prince of Wales with athletes and members of the team Jamaica during a visit to the Athletes Village at the University of Birmingham at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Phil Noble