Official celebrations marking the island’s historic transition from state to republic took place at National Heroes Square in the heart of the capital, Bridgetown. Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, had arrived from London for the occasion and the Royal Standard flag was lowered from the flagpole and replaced by the new Presidential Standard.
Taking a 21-gun salute to mark the historic switch, Mason later presented the Prince of Wales with the country’s highest-ranking honour, the Order of Freedom – designed to highlight the continuing close ties between Barbados and United One step empire gone.
Barbados’s decision is the first time in nearly three decades that a state has opted to remove a British monarch as head of state. The last nation to do so was the island of Mauritius in 1992. Like that country, Barbados intends to remain part of the Commonwealth – a 54-member organization of mostly former British territories designed to promote international cooperation and trade.
Prince Charles, who arrived late on Sunday as a guest of honor for Prime Minister Mia Motley, told the people of Barbados it was “important” for him to see a formal change.
They also reaffirmed the “close and credible partnership between Barbados and the UK as important members of the Commonwealth”.
However, some in Bridgetown questioned why the Queen’s son had come at all, pointing out that the island’s historical ties to the crown were rooted in slavery.
“No member of the royal family should be participating in our flagship Independence Day,” activist David Deeney told Granthshala.
“The royal family benefited financially from slavery and many of our African brothers and sisters died in the fight for change,” said Denny, secretary general of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration.
An expedition for King James I of England claimed Barbados when his ships first reached its shores in 1625. A settlement was established two years later.
“It was the first laboratory for English colonialism in the tropics,” Richard Drayton, professor of royal and global history at King’s College London, told Granthshala.
“Barbados also provided an important source of private wealth in 17th- and 18th-century England,” he said, noting that many English families made substantial fortunes from sugar and slavery.
Citing that history, Denny described Prince Charles’ involvement as “an insult to our people” and called for financial compensation from the royal family, as well as the British government and other institutions, that would take people from Africa. Benefited from going and enslaved them on plantations. Caribbean.
A stone’s throw from the venue at Swan Street, a popular shopping area with locals in downtown Bridgetown, many Barbadians also welcomed the change.
Toy seller Roger Goodridge, 59, described the move to Republic as “a long time to come” and said he was not surprised by Charles’ visit.
“The time has passed for ‘Little England.’ We are now on our own and at our greatest success – breaking the waters and moving on to another phase of our lives.”
Victoria Norville, a 16-year-old student enjoying a public holiday with a few girlfriends, told Granthshala: “I feel great about Barbados becoming a republic because we get a chance to be free and independent.”
Others expressed support, but wondered whether the transition was “a little too fast”. The government created its own 10-member group in May this year to help manage the transition from a monarchical system to a republic.
Andre Moore, 36, said, “It’s too early. Not everyone has thought about it yet and there are a lot of people who don’t even know what a republic is.”
“I think they should have taken at least a full year to deal with it, or at least two years. I think two years to really think about it, for this whole republic thing they did. It is prepared, for that, make your mind steady.
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