Barbados becomes a republic and parts ways with the Queen
Barbados has officially removed Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and became a republic in an overnight ceremony in the capital of Bridgetown.
Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as president during a midnight event coinciding with the country’s 55th anniversary of independence.
The Prince of Wales and Barbadian singer Rihanna attended the event.
In a speech, Prince Charles acknowledged the “appalling atrocity of slavery” the Caribbean island suffered.
To signify the official change of power, a final salute was made to the British monarchy and the Royal Standard flag was lowered and replaced.
Speaking as the guest of honour at the event, Prince Charles reiterated the continuing ties between the two nations despite the constitutional status change.
He described the moment as a new beginning and said he would always consider himself “a friend to Barbados” before being awarded the prestigious Order of Freedom Independence award by the new president.
Barbados announced is plan to become a republic last year, but it will remain within the Commonwealth.
Dame Sandra Mason, 72, the island’s governor-general since 2018, was named as president-elect of the nation following a vote in parliament last month. She now replaces the Queen as the head of state.
“Vessel Republic Barbados has set sail on her maiden voyage. May she weather all storms and land our country and citizens safely on the horizons and shores which are ahead of us,” she said after being sworn in.
Leading national figures, including Prime Minister Mia Mottley, swore allegiance to Barbados in front of the new president at the ceremony, which lasted for several hours.
She later announced that pop star Rihanna would be named a national hero by President Mason. The artist and businesswoman, whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, was previously named an ambassador by her home country in 2018.
“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honour to your nation,” Ms Mottley said, in reference to one of Rihanna’s songs.
A ‘seminal moment’
The country’s prime minister has described the move to a republic as a “seminal moment” which will see Barbados fully leave its colonial past behind.
It was one of England’s first slave colonies. English settlers first occupied the island in 1627 and, under British control, it became a sugar plantation economy using enslaved people brought in from Africa.
Slavery was abolished in Barbados in 1834 and the country became fully independent in 1966.
In his speech on Tuesday, Prince Charles spoke of the “appalling atrocity of slavery” which he said “forever stains our history”.
Before Barbados, the last nation to remove the Queen as head of state was Mauritius in 1992.
With a population of about 285,000 people, Barbados is one of the more populous and prosperous Caribbean islands.
Once heavily dependent on sugar exports, its economy has diversified but has been hit hard by Covid-19 hurting tourism and rising prices caused by supply chain disruptions.