CHARLES expressed his support for the first time for research into the historical links between the British monarchy and the transatlantic slave trade.

The King fell short of apologising for the direct role his ancestors played in slavery, however. In fact, no member of the royal family ever has.  

Buckingham Palace said he takes the issues “profoundly seriously” and the royal household will help with the academic project by offering access to the royal collection and the royal archives.

The independent research, the PhD project of historian Camilla de Koning at Manchester University, will investigate the monarchy’s involvement in the slave trade and engagement with the empire and is expected to conclude in 2026.

A Palace statement was issued in response to The Guardian, which has published a previously unseen document showing the 1689 transfer of £1,000 of shares in the slave-trading Royal African Company to King William III, from Edward Colston, the slave trader and the company’s deputy governor.

A spokesperson for the King said he had continued his pledge to deepen his understanding of slavery’s impact with “vigour and determination” since his accession.

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Last year, Charles told Commonwealth leaders that he was on a personal journey of discovery and was continuing to “deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact” and added that the roots of the Commonwealth “run deep into the most painful period of our history”.

But there was no apology from the then-heir to the throne for the royal family’s involvement in the transportation and selling of people for profit.

For centuries, successive monarchs and other royals participated in the trade, either supporting and facilitating the activity or making money from it.

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said on Thursday: “This is an issue that His Majesty takes profoundly seriously.

“As His Majesty told the Commonwealth Heads of Government reception in Rwanda last year: ‘I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many, as I continue to deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact’.”

The spokesperson added: “That process has continued with vigour and determination since His Majesty’s accession.

“The royal household is supporting this research through access to the royal collection and the royal archives.

“Given the complexities of the issues it is important to explore them as thoroughly as possible. It is expected that the research will conclude in September 2026.”

Manchester University’s website lists de Koning’s research as Royal Enterprise: Reconsidering the Crown’s Engagement in Britain’s Emerging Empire, 1660-1775.

Her previous work includes research into Dutch involvement in the slave trade while at the University of Leiden.