Kingdom of Barbados becomes a Republic

The Prince of Wales is in Barbados to attend the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony to mark Barbados’ transition from a Kingdom to a Republic within the Commonwealth, following almost four centuries of rule by a British Monarch. Barbados is not the first Commonwealth Realm to become a Republic. Since the start of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth II, she has been removed as Queen of 18 Nations, almost always peacefully. She remains Queen of 15 Commonwealth Realms. The Prince has been invited to the Ceremony in his role as the future Head of the Commonwealth.

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The Prince of Wales was received at Grantley Adams International Airport in Bridgetown by Dame Sandra Mason, the Governor General of Barbados, who has been selected as the first President. Last year, Dame Sandra said:

The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind. Barbadians want a Barbadian Head of State. This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving. Barbados will take the next logical step toward full sovereignty and become a Republic by the time we celebrate our 55th Anniversary of Independence.”

The Queen has written a letter to Dame Sandra and the people of Barbados:

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.

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During the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony in the Heroes Square in Bridgetown, the Prince of Wales highlighted the close relationship between Barbados and the UK and  received the The Order of Freedom of Barbados – the country’s highest-ranking honour. The Royal Standard was lowered before Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the first President of Barbados and the Presidential Standard was raised. The Prince’s Speech:

Madam President, Prime Minister, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I was so deeply touched that you should have invited me to return to Barbados and to join you, on behalf of The Queen, at this moment of such significance for your remarkable Nation.

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.

Madam President,

As your constitutional status changes, it was important to me that I should join you to reaffirm those things which do not change.

For example,

  • the close and trusted partnership between Barbados and the United Kingdom as vital members of the Commonwealth;
  • our common determination to defend the values we both cherish and to pursue the goals we share;
  • and the myriad connections between the people of our countries – through which flow admiration and affection, co-operation and opportunity – strengthening and enriching us all.

For my part, this is an occasion to reaffirm the friendship I have enjoyed with Barbados since I first visited the island over fifty years ago and then, again, while serving in the Royal Navy on the then West Indies station.  Across the decades, I have admired so much of what you have achieved and all you have come to represent.  I have heard your voice in the world grow louder, advocating with clarity, passion and authority on issues of global significance.  I have seen the power of the indomitable Bajan spirit, both at home and overseas – including through the invaluable contribution to our public life of the Barbadian diaspora in the United Kingdom.

This is, and will remain, such a special place for me.  As the giant of Barbadian literature, George Lamming, evokes so powerfully “the rhythm of the winds, the silence and aroma of the night, rocks, water, pebble and branch, animal and bird noise, the temper of the sea and the mornings arousing nature everywhere to the silent and sacred communion between you and the roots you have made on this island.”

In recent years, it has meant a great deal to me to have worked alongside your government to help address the challenges facing small island states like yours – not least the existential threat posed by climate change and global warming.  I have also taken great pride in the work my Prince’s Trust International has done in Barbados to create opportunity for young people through training and employment, and to help them fulfil their remarkable potential.

In these ways, and many more, I remain deeply committed to this very special country, and to your future prosperity and wellbeing.  I shall always consider myself a friend of Barbados.

Madam President, Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen,

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.

Yours is a story in which every Barbadian, young and old, can take the greatest pride – inspired by what has come before them and confident about what lies ahead.

As we will sing tonight:  you are the guardians of your heritage, firm craftsmen of your fate!

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