Barbados Becomes a Republic, Part Ways With Queen Of Britain
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Barbados ditched Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as head of state, forging a new republic on Tuesday with its first-ever president and severing its last remaining colonial bonds nearly 400 years after the first English ships arrived at the Caribbean island.
At the strike of midnight, the new republic was born, shortly after Queen Elizabeth’s royal standard was lowered over a crowded Heroes Square in Bridgetown.
Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, was on hand to witness the transition, which republicans hope will spur discussion of similar proposals in other former British colonies that have Queen Elizabeth as their sovereign.
Barbados casts the removal of Elizabeth II, who is still queen of 15 other realms including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Jamaica, as a way to finally break with the demons of its colonial history.
After a dazzling display of Barbadian dance and music, complete with speeches celebrating the end of colonialism, Sandra Mason was sworn in as Barbados’s first president in the shadow of Barbados’s parliament.
“Full stop this colonial page,” Winston Farrell, a Barbadian poet told the ceremony. “Some have grown up stupid under the Union Jack, lost in the castle of their skin.”
“It is about us, rising out of the cane fields, reclaiming our history,” he said. “End all that she mean, put a Bajan there instead.”
The birth of the republic, 55 years to the day since Barbados declared independence, unclasps almost all the colonial bonds that have kept the tiny island tied to England since an English ship claimed it for King James I in 1625.
It may also be a harbinger of a broader attempt by other former colonies to cut ties to the British monarchy as it braces for the end of Elizabeth’s nearly 70-year reign and the future accession of Charles.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the leader of Barbados’ republican movement, helped lead the ceremony. Mottley has won global attention by denouncing the effects of climate change on small Caribbean nations.
“Tonight’s the night!” read the front-page headline of Barbados’ Daily Nation newspaper.
“I’m overjoyed,” Ras Binghi, a Bridgetown cobbler, told Reuters ahead of the ceremony. Binghi said he would be saluting the new republic with a drink and a smoke.
Barbados will remain a republic within the Commonwealth, a grouping of 54 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.
The last time the queen was removed as head of state was in 1992 when the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius proclaimed itself a republic.