Barbados left Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as head of state, created a new republic with its first president on Tuesday and broke its last remaining colonial shackles, nearly 400 years after the first English ships arrived on the Caribbean island.
At midnight strike, the new republic was born in the capital, Bridgetown, with hundreds of people standing on Chamberlain Bridge cheering. A 21-gun salute was played at the crowded Heroes Square as the national anthem of Barbados.
The heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, stood sadly as Queen Elizabeth lowered the royal standard and announced new Barbados, a move that Republicans hope will lead to discussions on similar proposals in other former British colonies. who have the queen as their sovereign.
The island’s first president, President Sandra Mason, said, “We must give Republic Barbados its spirit and essence.” “We must shape its future. We are the custodians of each other and of our country. We are Barbados.”
Barbados removed Elizabeth II, who is still queen of 15 other realms, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Jamaica, as a way of finally breaking away from the demons of its colonial history.
“The creation of this republic provides a new beginning,” said Prince Charles, whose mother sent him her best wishes.
“From the darkest days of our past and the horrific tyranny of slavery that forever stains our history, the people of this island made their way with extraordinary courage.”
After a spectacular display of Barbadian dance and music, accompanied by speeches celebrating the end of colonialism, Barbadian singer Rihanna was declared a national hero by Prime Minister Mia Motley, leader of Barbados’s Republican Movement.
The birth of the republic, 55 years after Barbados’s declaration of independence, freed almost all colonial ties that had kept the small island tied to England since it was claimed by an English ship in 1625 for King James I. Is.
It may also have been a harbinger of a wider attempt by other former colonies to cut ties to the British monarchy as it prepared for the end of Elizabeth’s nearly 70-year rule and the future accession of Charles.
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The Barbadian poet Winston Farrell told the ceremony, “Totally stop this colonial page.” “Some have been fooled under the Union Jack, lost in the palace of their skin.”
“It’s about us getting out of the sugarcane fields, reclaiming our history,” he said. “Finish that, put an eagle in there instead.”
Prince Charles’ speech highlighted the continued friendship of the two countries, although he acknowledged the horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
While Britain denounces slavery as a sin of the past, some Barbadians are demanding compensation from Britain.
Activist David Denny celebrated the creation of the republic, but said he opposed Prince Charles’ visit, noting that the royal family had benefited from the slave trade for centuries.
“Our movement would like to pay compensation to the royal family as well,” Denny said in an interview in Bridgetown.
The British initially used white British indentured servants to work in the tobacco, cotton, indigo and sugar plantations, but within a few decades Barbados would become England’s first truly profitable slave society.
Barbados received 600,000 enslaved Africans between 1627 and 1833 who were put to work in the sugar plantations, earning fortunes for the English owners.
Between the 15th and 19th centuries more than 10 million Africans were tied up in the Atlantic slave trade by European countries. Those who survived the often brutal journey worked hard on the plantations.
“I am very happy,” Bridgetown cobbler Ras Bingi told Reuters ahead of the ceremony. Binghi said he would salute the new republic with drink and smoke.
Barbados will remain a republic within the Commonwealth, which is a grouping of 54 countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.
Outside the grand official ceremony, some Barbadians said they were unsure what the change meant to the republic or why it mattered. https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/barbados-heads-toward-republic-some-wonder-why-it-matters-2021-11-28,
“They should leave Queen Elizabeth – leave her as the boss. I don’t understand why we need to be a republic,” said 45-year-old Sean Williams, standing in the shadow of an independence monument.
The last time the Queen was removed as head of state was in 1992 when the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius declared itself a republic.
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge in Bridgetown and Brian Ellsworth in Washington; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Daniel Flynn, Lisa Shumaker and Lincoln Feast.)