Queen Elizabeth II is no longer the head of state of the Caribbean nation, which has switched from monarchy to republicanism. Prince Charles and singer Rihanna are among those in attendance at the ceremony.
Barbados formally declared itself a republic on Tuesday (11/30), withdrawing the title of head of state from Queen Elizabeth II in a ceremony attended by the British monarch’s son and heir, Prince Charles.
The UK’s royal standard was lowered as a symbol of regime change, and Governor-General Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation’s first president.
The transition from constitutional monarchy to republic marked the end of the British crown’s 396-year reign on the Caribbean island.
“Our nation must dream big and fight for their dreams,” President Obama said during the ceremony.
The proclamation of the republic, according to Prince Charles, marks a new beginning for Barbados. “From the darkest days of our past and the terrible atrocity of slavery, which will forever taint our history,” he declared, “the people of this island have forged their way with extraordinary strength.”
Rihanna, a Barbadian singer, attended the ceremony and was named a national hero.
Barbados is a former British colony with approximately 280,000 people that gained independence in 1966, also on November 30, but maintained ties with the British monarchy. The island intends to remain a member of the Commonwealth, a community of nations formerly affiliated with the British Empire.
Barbados is not the Caribbean’s first former British colony to become a republic, with Guyana (1970), Trinidad and Tobago (1976), and the Dominican Republic preceding it (1978).
Also at the time, the debate over racism and slavery served as the backdrop for a regime change, which was initially fueled by the Black Power movement and is now fueled by the Black Lives Matter movement.
The transition, however peaceful, is marked by a growing rejection of the British monarchy among the Barbadian population, as part of a broader campaign that also includes strengthening ties with Africa, where the majority of the population is from, and demanding reparations from the British for historical crimes on the island.
Plantation center in the Caribbean
Barbados was one of the Caribbean’s centers of the plantation-based production model, which resulted in wealth for the British and slavery for blacks brought from Africa.
Sugar cane plantations were introduced to America by the Portuguese in the 1500s off the coast of Brazil, and were later taken to Barbados and the Caribbean by the British.