Barbados to cut ties with the queen, become a republic in grand ceremony

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LONDON – Nearly 400 years after the first English ship arrived on its golden shores, the former British colony of Barbados will wake up as a republic on Tuesday.

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small caribbean nation Queen Elizabeth II As the head of state in a ceremony that will begin late Monday, the British will sever their ties with the royal family – and with it, one of the island’s last remaining royal ties to the United Kingdom.

It has been 55 years since Barbados gained full independence but the monarch has been kept in a ceremonial role.


The event will see Barbadian Sandra Mason, who has served as the island’s governor general – or representative of the queen – sworn in as the country’s first president. She was elected to the figurehead position by parliament last month, but Prime Minister Mia Motley Fool will continue to run the country.

“This is an important step,” Christina Hinds, a senior lecturer in political science at the University of the West Indies in eastern Barbados, said on a Zoom call from her home in Wanstead, north of the capital, Bridgetown. “I think it’s part of the evolution of our independence, and it’s definitely long overdue.”

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Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, will be in attendance as Barbados celebrates the end of his formal relationship with his 95-year-old mother. Elizabeth is the queen of 15 other territories, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Jamaica.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said the decision was a matter of the people of Barbados.

Music and dance performances will be held on the occasion. In “the final salute to the monarchy”, according to Charles’ office, the queen’s stature would be lowered and fireworks would mark the opening of the mason.

Charles is expected to deliver a speech stating that most relations between the two countries would remain the same, including “myriad relations between the peoples of our countries”.

Their presence may indicate the royal family’s desire to maintain a strong bond with the island, which will remain in commonwealth – A voluntary union of 54 states comprising several former British colonies and championed by the Queen for life.

Prince Charles arrived in the country late Sunday, ahead of his transition to a republic within the Commonwealth. Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images

But to Hinds, Charles’ appearance is symbolically “a little strange.”

“This is problematic for those of us who believe that the British monarchy, as important as it has historically been to Barbados in positive ways, has also caused serious damage to the country,” she said.

In the 17th century, Barbados was claimed by the British and turned into a lucrative colony using the labor of hundreds of thousands of people brought in as slaves from Africa.

It became a major center for the production of sugar, an increasingly important commodity that helped enrich British slave owners.

Christopher Pryor, associate professor in colonial and post-colonial history, said, “a result of the desire to produce sugar, which was catering for a growing sweet tooth in England – a white consumer lifestyle built on the back of black exploitation and slave labor.” at the University of Southampton, UK.

The current population of the island is about 287,000, mostly descendants of people who were brought from Africa as slaves to work in the plantations.

‘not personal’

Despite this history, there remains a level of respect for the monarchy and Britain in general, particularly among the island’s older population, Hinds said.

He said that many places in Barbados are named after queens or their ancestors and a lion’s share of the country’s tourists come from Britain. The island is often referred to as “Little England”.

The small island of the West Indies has been linked to London since an English ship laid claim to King James I in 1625.Joe Redl / Getty Images

Nevertheless, many in Barbados welcomed the move to break ties with their country’s old imperial rulers.

“For Barbadians, this isn’t something personal against the Queen, it’s about our national pride and governance,” René Holder-McClean-Ramirez, 45, an advocate and counsel for the LGBTQ community, said over the phone from her home in Bridgetown.

“As we grow and develop as an independent nation, having a foreign head of state is not necessary or practical,” he said.

For Ronnie Yearwood, a Bridgetown lawyer, the positive sentiment of the move is combined with regret that the government has gone ahead without consulting the public about what kind of republic they want.

Barbados first pursued the idea of ​​republicanism in the late 1970s and proposed holding a referendum on the issue in 2008, but the date was pushed back indefinitely.

The decision to remove the Queen as head of state was announced in 2020, but with little consultation about the transition, Yearwood said.

“Very frustrating,” said 42-year-old Yearwood. “It could have been a beautiful moment for all Barbadians.”

Granthshala News contacted both the Prime Minister’s Office and Mason, but was not given permission to be interviewed.

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‘Global conversation’

Barbados’ decision to release the Queen follows a wave of worldwide protests inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. A more frank assessment of Britain’s royal past has helped drive the effort to bring down symbols of racism and colonialism from Cambridge to the Caribbean.

“It is a local manifestation of a very global conversation that is taking place about the legacy of the British Empire and its colonial exploitation,” Pryor said.

“The move to Barbados is another element of our disruptive moments.”

So could the change in bustle on Barbados’ beaches mark the start of a wave of regions cutting ties with the royal family?

“When the Queen eventually dies, further conversations are going to emerge, especially in places like Australia, about whether they want to keep Charles as their head of state,” Pryor said.

“I don’t want to suggest that there is an inevitability, but I think it is very likely that the issue of republicanism is not going to go away any time soon.”

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