And it’s no wonder, given the deep and abiding affection most Belizeans have for the Royal Family. Prince William, having trained in Belize with the Welsh Guards, has long been considered a favourite son, and Prince Andrew the Duke of York visited in March 2002 to dedicate a British funded section of the Southern Highway and review British and Belizean Troops.
And, of course, the head of the royal Family, Queen Elizabeth II, is still officially the Queen of Belize. Her visit in 1985 was one of the most talked about events of the century.
Belize, as the former Crown Colony of British Honduras, achieved independence in 1981, but always retained strong ties to the United Kingdom. Many people arriving in Belize after travelling through Central America are surprised to find that English is the official language and to see the Queen’s portrait not only on Belizean currency, but in most government offices and even many private homes.
There is no doubt that Belize’s love affair with the royal family is still very much alive. Even prior to defeating Spanish forces at St George’s Caye in1798, a pivotal event still celebrated annually, Belizeans steadfastly regarded English culture and the Royal Family as their own, and with sincere affection. The death of Princess Diana almost two hundred years later in 1997, for example, saw the entire country in mourning with people in towns and villages openly weeping.
As Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, is Belize’s head of State in this small and vibrant constitutional monarchy, and her official Belizean title is “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Belize and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth”.
Although she is not involved in the day-to-day business of the Government of Belize, she continues to play an important symbolic role and she is fully briefed on the country by her ministers and the Governor-General, who currently is His Excellency Sir Colville Young GCMG MBE.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to Belize in October 1985 remains one of the biggest events in the country’s history, and is still fondly recalled by many people, who welcomed her and the Duke enthusiastically, giving them the key to Belize City and rousing, respectful receptions wherever they visited.
Prince William and Kate’s Royal Wedding will be one of the most talked about and watched events of the decade, but here in Belize the celebrations involve far more than mere curiosity and spectacle – they reflect that special Belizean warmth which we hope will entice Prince William to visit once again, and this time with his new wife.