Bahamas Independence Celebrations, 1973

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, represented the Queen to grant Independence to the Colony of The Bahamas on this day in 1973, 50 years ago, marking the end of 300-years of British Rule. The Bahamas continue to be members of the Commonwealth and one of the Commonwealth Realms, with the now King Charles as their Sovereign.

The Prince of Wales arrived on the frigate Minerva, on which he was serving, and hosted a glittering Reception for dignitaries from 52 countries at Government House in Nassau. The Prince also captained the Nassau polo team in a match against Freeport on Grand Bahama.

Just before midnight, the Prince of Wales witnessed the final lowering of the Union Jack on hills overlooking Nassau harbour, in a ceremony replicated on all 22 of the inhabited Bahamian islands. 10 hours later, the Prince (wearing the Order of the Garter) read a speech from the Queen and handed over two formal documents to Prime Minister Lynden Pindling, just minutes before the canopy fell on the dignitaries.

NASSAU, the Bahamas, July 10—As a new flag of black, aquamarine and gold was raised here today, the Bahamas became an independent nation, emerging from three centuries of British colonial rule.

Prince Charles enjoyed the Bahamas’ last day as a British colony, hosting a formal reception at Government House for dignitaries from 52 countries overseeing the end of over 300 years of British sovereignty.

He laid the cornerstone of the Central Bank on July 9, 1973. On the evening of July 9, a musical and cultural display entitled ‘Pages from Bahamian History’ was held at Clifford Park.

It portrayed Bahamian heritage through dance and music. The show was co-ordinated and directed by Winston Saunders and Clement Bethel was its artistic and musical director.

At one minute to midnight on July 9, 1973, the Union Jack was lowered for the last time as the official flag of The Bahamas.

One minute after midnight on July 10 a crowd of 50,000 saw the black, turquoise and gold flag of the Bahamas being raised instead of the Union Jack.

The ceremony was replicated on all of the inhabited Bahamian islands. As the Queen’s representative, Prince Charles read a personal message from Her Majesty. Prince Charles, wearing a white military uniform, read a brief message of congratulations from Queen Elizabeth II, who welcomed this subtropical chain of 700 islands into that “unique international fellowship,” the Commonwealth. 

The moment of independence came just after midnight, but it was made official 10 hours later at an outdoor ceremony at which Prince Charles, heir to the British crown, presented two formal documents to Prime Minister Lynden O. Pindling.



The Bahamas has always held a special place in my affections. I remember with great fondness my visit in July 1973, when serving in the Royal Navy in H.M.S. Minerva, to attend the Independence Day celebrations: the police band first playing March On Bahamaland; the first moment the flag of black, aquamarine and gold was raised; and no fewer than three Independence Balls when I danced at the first one with the wife of the then Prime Minister – now, of course, Dame Marguerite Pindling.

The people of The Bahamas have always given such a warm welcome to my family and myself, and I know that my mother, The late Queen, and my late father retained equally happy memories of their five visits to The Bahamas between 1966 and 1994. I am also most grateful for how you all welcomed my elder son and daughter-in-law, The Prince and Princess of Wales, last year and how the many young participants of the Governor General’s Youth Award welcomed my brother and sister-in-law, The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, this Spring. It is thus perhaps no surprise that, for my family and myself, The Bahamas has always felt like a home away from home, both in public and in private.

Much has happened since my last visit. Most recently, I know the unchecked crisis of global warming and climate change continues to ravage these islands. Members of my family have related to me their discussions with the people of Grand Bahama and Abaco, and I have heard of your resilience and compassion for one another following hurricane Dorian, as well as how international organisations, including the Royal Navy, responded so swiftly. Throughout the last fifty years, there are so many stories to celebrate; of Bahamian leadership on the global stage; of sports-stars, playwrights, Olympians, chefs, authors, business leaders, film stars, musicians, artists, inventors and designers. You can all be enormously proud of what has been achieved. And, of special importance to me, throughout the past fifty years The Bahamas has been an indispensable member of our Commonwealth family.

I felt it of great importance that my family play a part in your anniversary year and that is why I hope to be able to celebrate with you as soon as possible, and to meet some of the many Bahamians who are already shaping the next fifty years, such as Christina Fernander – the first female chairperson of a winning Junkanoo group – young sailors such as Craig Ferguson aspiring to the Olympic legacy of Durward Knowles, pioneering climate scientists such as Alannah Vellacott, Marjahn Finlayson and Charles Hamilton and, of course, Dame Marguerite, who I hope will save her next dance for me!

From Andros to San Salvador, Eleuthera to Inagua, Grand Bahama to Nassau and across the beautiful family islands of the Commonwealth of Bahamas, my wife and I send you all our warmest and most heartfelt congratulations at this very special time.

“Forward, Upward, Onward, Together”. Happy fiftieth anniversary of independence. March On Bahamaland!

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