Barbados has officially removed the British Queen as Head of State and historically transitioned to becoming the world’s newest republic.
The Road to Republic
After 55 years of being considered ‘Independent’ within the Commonwealth Nations, Barbados has officially removed Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State and transitioned to the world’s newest republic.
The road to becoming a republic began in 2020 when the Barbados parliament voted to progress the island from a constitutional monarchy to a parliamentary republic. This consists of a Prime Minister and a ceremonial President as Head of State and some additional changes to governmental structures to become a fully sovereign nation free of British rule.
The following year, Barbados’ 8th and final Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason was nominated and unanimously elected to become the first President of Barbados in a special sitting of the lower and upper houses of parliament.
Dame Sandra was historically sworn in and assumed office during a special Presidential Inauguration Ceremony hosted at Heroes Square on the island’s 2021 Independence Day (November 30th).
Did you know?
Before this critical milestone in Caribbean history, a nation had not removed the Queen as Head of State for almost 30 years, with Mauritius the last to claim republic status back in 1992.
Commemorating the occasion
The Barbados republic celebrations began on November 29th, 2021, with the official opening of Golden Square Freedom Park, right in the heart of the city center, to commemorate the end of nearly 400 years of British monarchical rule.
Interestingly, Golden Square is where Barbadian national hero the Right Excellent Clement Payne held his most crucial mass meetings inciting workers to break free from the ‘plantocracy’ oppression, making it a very significant location in the island’s history.
At the official opening, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said the new ‘Freedom’ park and its connection with one of the nation’s most notable freedom fighters are intended to showcase and represent Barbados’ long journey to become a fully independent state.
The two-acre park features the Barbadian and CARICOM flags, a Builders of Barbados Wall, a Community Wall, a 1937 Memorial Wall, and benches gifted to the island by Suriname.
Barbados officially becomes a republic.
Coinciding with the anniversary of Barbados’ 55 years of Independence from Britain, the late-night ceremony to formally transition to a republic was attended by an eclectic mix of guests, including Prince Charles of England, West Indies cricketer Sir Garfield ‘Garry’ Sobers, and Barbadian-born pop star and businesswoman Rihanna.
Prince Charles was given the Order of Freedom of Barbados and was a guest of honor at the event, demonstrating the intention to continue positive relations between Britain and Barbados. In his speech, Charles delivered a message from the Queen, who sent the island her “warmest good wishes” for “happiness, peace, and prosperity in the future.” He also acknowledged the “darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history,” and congratulated Barbadians – “Tonight you write the next chapter of your nation’s story. You are the guardians of your heritage”.
The local singer turned global phenomenon, Robyn ‘Rihanna’ Fenty, was prestigiously also declared by the Barbadian Prime Minister as a new national hero for her excellence, creativity, discipline, and extraordinary commitment to her land birth. Previously an Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, with specific responsibility for promoting education, tourism, and investment, Rihanna is the youngest person to receive this national honor for her service to Barbados and has become the 11th national hero of Barbados.
To officially mark the change in constitutional status, Barbados gave the British Monarch’s Royal Standard flag one final 21-gun salute before being ceremoniously taken down and replaced.
Although Barbados will remain a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, during the annual 2020 Throne Speech, delivered on behalf of the Prime Minister, Dame Sandra Mason made it clear:
“The time has come to leave our colonial past behind fully. Barbadians want a Barbadian Head of State.“
Did you know?
A limited-edition sterling silver commemorative coin is available for purchase as a collector’s item or gift to mark this significant new chapter in Barbadian history.
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