The Royal Standard was lowered in Barbados in the early hours of this morning as the Caribbean island became a republic – 396 years after it first became part of the British Empire under King James I.
In a speech to mark the occasion, the Prince of Wales said slavery was an ‘appalling atrocity which forever stains our history’ as the baton was passed.
Charles had flown into the tropical island as the representative of its head of state, the Queen – but after the midnight ceremony in the capital Bridgetown, he is now simply a visiting dignitary after watching the new President, Dame Sandra Mason, being inaugurated.
But a planned protest against Prince Charles’ presence in Barbados and calling for slavery reparations from the Royal Family was cancelled after the island’s government denied them a permit to prevent the spread Covid-19.
The handover of power was pointedly chosen on the anniversary of Barbados’ independence from Britain in 1966 and the island’s most famous star Rihanna jetted in to receive the honour of National Hero of Barbados – along with cricket great Sir Garfield Sobers.
In his speech, the Prince of Wales said he respected its government’s decision to become a republic, but was delighted it was remaining in the Commonwealth.
Charles said: ‘The creation of this Republic offers a new beginning, but it also marks a point on a continuum, a milestone on the long road you have not only travelled, but which you have built.
‘From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.
‘Emancipation, self-government and Independence were your way-points.
‘Freedom, justice and self-determination have been your guides. Your long journey has brought you to this moment, not as your destination, but as a vantage point from which to survey a new horizon.’
Chinese pressure is said to be fuelling a drive to remove the Queen as head of state in Barbados, British MPs have repeatedly warned.
Beijing has pumped at least $490million dollars into the island’s tourism industry in recent years – and even more in low interest loans. The money has forced Dame Sandra to deny China is the driving force behind ending 400 years of loyalty to the British crown since King James I without any referendum of the population.
The new president of Barbados, Dame Sandra Mason (seated right), watches on as Prince Charles addresses the crowd at her inauguration in Bridgetown this morning
Rihanna was one of the guests of honour and watched as Charles said he respected its government’s decision to become a republic
Dame Sandra Mason, left, was inaugurated as the first president of Barbados in a ceremony addressed by Prince Charles
The singer Rihanna was awarded the honour of National Hero of Barbados under her full name Robyn Rihanna Fenty as part of the festivities
Charles is seated in National Heroes Square in Barbados’s capital Bridgetown as the ceremony got underway at midnight
Dame Sandra is sworn in as the first President of Barbados after the country became a republic and removed the Queen as its head of state earlier this morning
Dame Sandra Mason becomes Barbados’s first president in a ceremony taking place in Bridgetown this morning that saw the Queen’s Royal Standard lowered for the final time (left) and replaced by a new presidential flag (right)
The Queen’s standard is lowered for the final time in Barbados this morning as the island nation becomes a republic
Dame Sandra is seated in a chair previously occupied by Prince Charles after being sworn in an Barbados’s first president
Rihanna thanking Dame Sandra after having the honour of National Hero conferred on her during this morning’s ceremony
Barbados’ new President Sandra Mason and singer Rihanna stand during the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony to mark the birth of a new republic in Barbados
The singer Rihanna was made National Hero during the ceremony that saw Barbados inaugurate its first president early today
The military led the pomp at the first presidential inauguration ceremony in Barbados’s history, 55 years to the day since the island won independence from the Britain
The scene in Bridgetown, Barbados, this morning as Charles attended a ceremony to usher in its new era as a republic
Prince Charles takes his seat at the ceremony where Dame Sandra Mason will replace his mother the Queen as Barbados’s head of state
Cricket legend Sir Garfield Sobers embraces Rihanna – the only two living National Heroes of Barbados after the singer received the honour to mark the nation’s independence. Both are now addressed ‘The Right Excellent’.
The Queen sent her own message to the island nation, telling them and their new president: ‘On this significant occasion and your assumption of office as the first President of Barbados, I extend my congratulations to you and all Barbadians.
‘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; it is a country rightfully proud of its vibrant culture, its sporting prowess, and its natural beauty, that attracts visitors from all over the world, including many people from the United Kingdom.
‘Over the years, our countries have enjoyed a partnership based on common values, shared prosperity, and close collaboration on a wide range of issues, including recent work on climate change. It is also a source of great satisfaction that Barbados remains an active participant within the Commonwealth, and I look forward to the continuation of the friendship between our two countries and peoples.
‘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.’
Fireworks lit the skies of Bridgetown after the ceremony, which also saw Barbados-born singer Rihanna given the rare honour of National Hero – one of only two living people to receive it alongside cricket great Sir Garfield Sobers.
‘May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation,’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley told the celebrity.
Speaking after taking office, Dame Sandra – the former Governor-General, said: ‘Republic Barbados has set sail on her maiden voyage.’
She added: ‘Our country must dream big dreams and fight to realize them.’
And amid growing anger about historic racism, Charles had acknowledged the deep wrongs done when slaves were imported here for 200 years until 1834, to work on lucrative British sugar plantations.
Today, the prince is due to visit the island’s respected national archives – stuffed with evidence of the grim realities of slavery. It was only thanks to the labours of slaves that the hard work of sugar cane production could be so profitably carried out.
It has been suggested Beijing has been buying up Barbados after heavy Chinese investment on the island. China built the Confucius Institute at the University of the West Indies as well as sold electric buses and shipped Covid jabs to Barbados
China has pumped at least $7billion in investment into the Caribbean since 2005, records show, though the true figure – when taking into account soft loan deals and private investment – is thought to run well into the tens of billions. Showpiece projects have included a cricket stadium in Grenada, a casino and resort in the Bahamas, and acquiring Jamaica’s largest port. Barbados has received around $490million worth of investment so far
Laos, Sierra Leone, and Guinea having received more than their entire GDP in investment from China
Locals joined in a ‘Pride of Nationhood’ celebration on Monday evening, the country’s last day with the Queen as head of state
Bridgetown was in party spirit late on Monday ahead of the swearing in of Dame Sandra Mason as the nation’s first president
Proud Barbadian and West Indies cricket great Sir Garfield Sobers, 85, is greeted at the presidential inauguration in Bridgetown
There was no referendum on Barbados becoming a republic, and with the coronavirus meaning celebrations are muted and not open to the general public, there was little buzz about the switch.
In reality, it will mean little visible change for the 290,000 residents of this 170-miles-square nation, which lies in the Atlantic just to the east of the Caribbean.
The new president, Dame Sandra Mason, simply switches from her role until yesterday as the royals’ Governor General – and the Queen’s face had long disappeared from coins and stamps. The armed forces will simply be getting new buttons on their uniforms, and the island prison is no longer ‘Her Majesty’s’.
But a small group of campaigners are seizing the change as moment to demand far more, including reparations for the long-term harm caused by slavery.
Celebrations got underway the Barbados’s capital Bridgetown ahead of the ceremony swearing in its first president
Musicians taking part in celebrations with the theme ‘Pride of Nationhood’ which saw Barbados become a republic this morning
Circus performers and entertainerstook to the streets of Bridgetown in a parade before the President was inaugurated today
Revellers in the National Heroes Square in Bridgetown celebrate the country becoming a republic, ending four centuries of ties to Britain
The Queen is pictured meeting Dame Sandra Mason in a file picture. Dame Sandra will replace the Queen as head of state
According to island historian Hilary Beckles, chairman of the Caribbean Community Reparations Commission, Barbados was ‘Britain’s first ‘black slave society’, the most systematically violent, brutal and racially inhumane society of modernity.’
And activists argue that the royal family is deeply implicated in the slave trade. They note that the Queen’s ancestor King George IV in 1824 proclaimed slaves were expected to display ‘dutiful obedience to their masters’, and claim Kensington Palace was built with sugar trade profits.
Prince Charles and the British government have no plans to make such a commitment, beyond promising continuing charitable work from the Prince’s Trust and relatively small sums to help infrastructure.
The island paradise turning its back on the Queen: How rising republicanism will see one of UK’s oldest colonies Barbados sever its 400-year-old ties with the Crown to ‘leave its past behind’… after taking $500M from China
by MARTIN ROBINSON, Chief Reporter, and HARRY HOWARD, History Correspondent, for MailOnline
Today, nearly 400 years after Barbados was claimed for her ancestor King James I by an English ship, the Queen’s role as head of state of the island comes to an end.
The move by the nation’s politicians to turn it into a republic comes more than 50 years after it became fully independent in 1966.
That year, Her Majesty and Prince Philip were greeted by rapturous crowds as they touched down in Bridgetown, Barbados’s capital, for the start of a five-week tour of the Caribbean.
But the enduring popularity of the Queen amongst many Barbadians has not halted the ultimately successful drive to remove the monarch.
Prince Charles last night landed in Barbados ahead of the historic ceremony which removed his mother’s symbolic power before Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason was as the country’s first president.
The ceremony followed the decision which was made last year, when Dame Sandra said that the ‘time has come’ to fully leave our colonial past behind.
However, in recent years Barbados has embraced a reported $490million in funding from China for new developments – although any suggestions that this relationship may create its own problems have been dismissed by the country’s prime minister, Mia Amor Mottley.
Chinese money has gone on projects which include the construction of a Confucius Institute at the University of the West Indies’s campus in Barbados, the refurbishment of the national stadium in Bridgetown, the upgrade of he sewage system, the rebuilding of roads and the construction of a spa resort at the famous Sam Lord’s Castle.
China has also donated a coastal patrol vessel to Barbados’s navy, given 30,000 doses of its Sinovac vaccine to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and sold 30 electric buses to the country.
The investment has prompted suggestions that China is using the investment to gain political leverage in the region.
When Barbados announced at the end of last year that it was going to become a republic, Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the UK’s foreign affairs committee, accused Beijing of ‘playing a large role’ in the decision.
Today, nearly 400 years after Barbados was claimed for her ancestor King James I by an English ship, the Queen’s role as head of state of the island comes to an end. Above: The Queen in Barbados during her five-week tour of the Caribbean in 1966
The move by the nation’s politicians to turn it into a republic comes more than 50 years after it became a fully independent nation in 1966. That year, Her Majesty and Prince Philip were greeted by rapturous crowds (pictured left) as they touched down in Bridgetown, Barbados’s capital, for the start of a five-week tour of the Caribbean. Right: The Queen in Barbados during her Silver Jubilee tour in 1977
Barbados’s move to remove the Queen as its head of state comes nearly 30 years after the last nation to do so – the island of Mauritius – in 1992.
When English sailors settled on Barbados in 1627, it became Britain’s second colony – after Virginia had been founded in North America.
From that starting point, the British Empire went on to cover nearly a quarter of the world’s surface and population.
Barbados’s own parliament – which was modelled on that of its colonial master back in England – was established in 1639, making it the third oldest in the entire Commonwealth.
In the years that followed, thousands of West African slaves were shipped to the island to work on sugar plantations.
Prince Charles last night landed in Barbados ahead of the historic ceremony which will remove his mother’s symbolic power before current Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason is sworn in tomorrow as the country’s first president
Queen Elizabeth ll is greeted by the public during a walkabout in Barbados on November 01, 1977 in Barbados
It is estimated that between 1627 to 1807, some 387,000 Africans were sent to the island against their will and the country shifted from having a majority white population of voluntary settlers to a majority black population.
On August 28, 1833, the British Government passed the Slavery Abolition Act, and slaves across the British Empire, including in Barbados, were granted emancipation.
When the island became independent in 1966 – after the island was granted internal autonomy in 1961 – the Queen continued as head of state, this time at the helm of the separate monarchy of Barbados.
Following her visit that year, Her Majesty first returned in 1977 – when she embarked on Concorde for the first time on the journey home – and again in 1985 and 1989, with each visit being well-received by Barbadians.
But these visits did not quell the desire among politicians and many ordinary Barbadians for the country to sever its formal ties with the English monarchy.
The idea was formally looked at in the 1970s but it was decided that there was still not enough public support.
The next milestone came in 1998, when a Barbados constitutional review commission recommended republican status.
Then, in 2003, the country opted to replace the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice, located in Trinidad and Tobago’s Port of Spain, as its final appeals court.
In 2005, legislation was passed to allow for a referendum on the shift to republicanism, but the actual vote never took place.
In 2015, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said ‘we have to move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in the very near future’.
In the last two years, republicanism has gathered pace further amid the fallout from the Black Lives Matter movement, renewed focus on the horrendous history of the slave trade, and Britain’s catastrophic handling of the Windrush scandal.
But this month’s shift away from Britain’s monarchy has been pushed through by PM Ms Mottley and agreed by the parliament, where the politician’s Labour party controls 29 out of 30 seats.
Some politicians are opposed to the move. Verla de Peiza, 50, the leader of the country’s Democratic Labour Party, told the Daily Mail’s Robert Hardman: ‘A referendum would have been great or, at the very least, some sort of proper consultation.
‘We were promised an electoral college to discuss a new constitution. There’s been nothing of the sort.’
Dr Ronnie Yearwood, 42, a lecturer in law at the University of the West Indies, added: ‘There was no clamour on the streets for this.
Queen Elizabeth II of England, left, and Prince Philip, right, are entertained by the Earl and Countess of Avon, at their house, Villa Nova, in Barbados, West Indies, February 15th 1966
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is warmly welcomed by the crowds outside the Parliament Buildings in Bridgetown, Barbados, on February 24, 1975
‘But if you criticise this process, or ask for a referendum you are accused of being anti-republic.
‘The government says ‘look at Brexit’ as if it’s a bad thing when the people have their say. This could have been a beautiful moment but it feels very flat.’
Since the decision by Mauritius to become a republic, three other nations have held votes on the subject – Australia in 1999, the Pacific state of Tuvalu in 2008 and Barbados’s Caribbean neighbour St Vincent & the Grenadines in 2009.
On each occasion, despite pressure from politicians, the people opted to keep the Queen as head of state.
Despite the decision by Ms Mottley to make Barbados a republic, it will remain a key part of the Commonwealth, which is headed by the Queen.
Barbados: The country’s colonial history
Barbados was one of the oldest English settlements in the West Indies, being surpassed only by Saint Kitts.
The countries’ historical ties date back to the 17th century and involve settlement, post-colonialism and modern bilateral relations.
Since Barbados gained its independence in 1966, the nations have continued to share ties through the Commonwealth, with the Queen as Monarch.
The Barbadian Parliament is the third oldest in the entire Commonwealth and the island continues to practice the Westminster style of government.
Many of the historic Anglican churches and plantation houses across the island show the influence of English architecture.
In 1627, 80 Englishmen aboard the William and John landed on the Caribbean island and founded Jamestown (close to today’s Holetown), in the name of King James I.
The early settlers struggled to develop a profitable export crop and faced difficulties in maintaining supplies from Europe.
However, the Sugar Revolution, the introduction of sugar cane from Dutch Brazil, in the 1640s was highly lucrative and over the next decade more than two thirds of English emigres to the Americas went to Barbados.
The Sugar Revolution, the introduction of sugar cane from Dutch Brazil, in the 1640s was highly lucrative but came at great social cost
But while this shift to sugar yielded huge profits, it came at a great social cost. Thousands of West African slaves were shipped across the Atlantic to work the plantations and workers suffered from low wages and minimal social services.
It is estimated that between 1627 to 1807, some 387,000 Africans were shipped to the island against their will and the country shifted from having a majority white population to a majority black population.
On 28th August 1833, the British Government passed the Slavery Abolition Act, and slaves across the British empire were granted emancipation.
Barbados remained a British colony until internal autonomy was granted in 1961.
The country became fully independent on November 30, 1966, during a time when the country’s economy was expanding and diversifying.
Since then, the Barbadian Parliament has remained a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, which is modeled on the British Westminster system of government.
In 2008, British exports to Barbados stood at £38 million, making it Britain’s fourth-largest export market in the region.
In recent years a growing number of British nationals have been relocating to Barbados to live, with polls showing that British nationals make up 75–85 per cent of the Barbados second home market.