Protests disrupted Prince William and Kate Middleton’s tour of former British colonies in the Caribbean this week, causing the British royal family embarrassment on the international stage. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived in Belize, Jamaica, and the Bahamas on March 19 for a week-long visit.

The trip was officially planned to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, which marks her 70th year on the throne. According to many observers, the trip was intended to persuade the three countries to keep the Queen as head of state rather than follow Barbados, which became a republic last November. However, rising calls to sever formal ties with the Queen, as well as campaigns for slavery reparations, have sparked a reckoning with the region’s colonial past.

On March 22, Prince William and Kate arrived in Jamaica, their second stop on their journey. The Jamaican government had begun the process of converting the island nation—which is the largest English-speaking country in the Caribbean—to a republic only a day later, according to The Independent.

The news came at a difficult time for the royal family. One hundred Jamaican academics, politicians, and cultural figures signed an open letter the day before the couple arrived in the country, calling on the royal family and the British government to apologize and pay reparations for subjecting the island to colonial rule and slavery.

“We believe that an apology for British crimes against humanity, including but not limited to exploitation of Jamaica’s indigenous peoples, transatlantic trafficking of Africans, enslavement of Africans, indentureship, and colonialization, is required to begin a process of healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, and compensation,” the letter stated.

The signatories of the letter describe Prince William and Kate as “direct beneficiaries of the royal family’s wealth accumulated through the trafficking and enslavement of Africans.” “We see no reason to celebrate 70 years of your grandmother’s ascension to the British throne because her leadership, and that of her predecessors, has perpetuated the greatest human rights tragedy in the history of humankind,” the letter says in reference to the Queen’s Jubilee. The Advocates Network organized a protest outside the British High Commission in Kingston on March 22 to coincide with the couple’s arrival. “#SehYuhSorry and make REPARATIONS,” said demonstrators holding banners.

During an address to Jamaica’s prime minister the next day, Prince William avoided making an apology, instead expressing “profound sorrow” for the “appalling atrocity of slavery.”

“Slavery was heinous and should never have happened,” he said. “I wholeheartedly agree with my father, the Prince of Wales, who said in Barbados last year that slavery is a stain on our history that will never be erased.”

The couple’s tour was not without controversy, and the events in Jamaica were no exception. The day before they arrived in Belize, their first stop on the trip, they canceled their first major engagement. Locals staged a protest against William and Kate’s visit to a cocoa farm on March 20, objecting to the couple’s plans to land their helicopter on a nearby football pitch without consultation.

Queen Elizabeth II is the monarch of not only the United Kingdom, but also the Commonwealth realms, which include Canada, Australia, and Papua New Guinea. They are not to be confused with the Commonwealth of Nations, a group of 54 former British Empire countries, the majority of which no longer recognize the Queen as sovereign. The Commonwealth realms’ nations are constitutional monarchies, meaning that the Queen serves as a symbolic head of state, but the countries are governed by elected governments. Although the Queen does not participate in government, she does have some constitutional responsibilities, such as approving new governments and legislation, which are carried out by a royal representative.

Despite the fact that the Queen’s role in these countries is largely symbolic, the British government noted that the monarchy is an important part of Britain’s global clout.