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King Charles Supports Research Into British Monarchy’s Ties With Slave Trade

King Charles has for the first time expressed support for research into the historical links between the British monarchy and the transatlantic slave trade, according to The Guardian. In a statement released by Buckingham Palace on April 4, a spokesperson said the royal household takes the issue “profoundly seriously,” and will help by offering access to the Royal Collection and the Royal Archives. 

The Palace’s statement came after The Guardian published a document earlier this month uncovering links between the Royal African Company and King William III. According to Sky News, a 1689 document shows a transfer of shares worth £1,000 in the slave trading company to the then monarch, from the company’s chief Edward Colston. Colston has long been a figure of controversy, with his statue in Bristol having been pulled down and pushed into the city’s harbour as part of BLM protests that took place in June 2020.

Although Buckingham Palace did not comment on the document, they said it supported the research project being co-sponsored by Historic Royal Palaces. The King is said to support efforts to investigate the monarchy's links to slavery and to acknowledge any historical wrongs, including investigating royal family members who owned slaves or profited from the trade.

The move comes in response to growing pressure from campaigners and historians who have long argued that the monarchy has benefitted from, and contributed to, the slave trade. The issue has gained renewed attention in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the global reckoning with historical legacies of racism and colonialism.

In this way, the announcement has been praised by many anti-slavery campaigners as a positive step towards greater accountability and understanding of the complex history of the monarchy. However, some historians specialising in the monarchy’s involvement with slavery argue that “much more needs to be done.”

Despite these debates, the mere fact that the British monarchy is now publicly acknowledging its role in the slave trade is a significant turning point. It reflects the broader trend of increased scrutiny of historical figures and institutions, and a growing recognition of the ways in which racism and colonialism continue to shape our world. What’s more, it reflects an awareness of the need for accountability — the need to confront uncomfortable truths and injustices of the past, to work towards a more inclusive future.

There is still much work to be done in terms of uncovering the full extent of the British monarchy's links to slavery and addressing the ongoing legacies of colonialism and racism. But King Charles' support for research into this issue is a vital step towards that goal.

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