Barbados has officially declared itself a republic, removing Queen Elizabeth as the country’s head of state.
In a ceremony attended by Prince Charles, the Queen’s royal standard was lowered from the Parliament Building at midnight on November 30, marking the end of an almost 400-year association with the British royal family that began when the Caribbean island was first colonised by the English in 1625.
The occasion was marked by festivities including traditional song and dance as well as speeches and poetry delivered to a packed crowd in National Heroes Square. Speaking at the transition ceremony, Prince Charles formally recognised ‘the appalling atrocity of slavery’ forced upon Barbadians by the English, which he said ‘forever stains our history’.
‘Tonight you write the next chapter of your nation’s story, adding to the treasury of past achievement, collective enterprise and personal courage which already fill its pages,’ he said, per Sky News.
In a message sent by the Queen to the country’s new president, Sandra Mason, she said:
I first visited your beautiful country on the eve of independence in early 1966, and I am very pleased that my son is with you today. Since then, the people of Barbados have held a special place in my heart.
As you celebrate this momentous day, I send you and all Barbadians my warmest good wishes for your happiness, peace and prosperity in the future.
The removal of the Queen as Barbados’s head of state means there are now only 15 countries, including the UK, that continue to recognise the British monarch as head of state, per Reuters. Barbados will remain a member of the Commonwealth, however it’s thought that their decision could prompt other nations to re-examine their ties to the royal family.
The transition ceremony was also attended by native Barbadian Rihanna, who was officially awarded the title of National Hero by the country’s prime minister, making her only the 11th person and 2nd woman to be given the honour.
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