Caribbean island of Barbados becomes a republic after renouncing UK queen
Barbados has become a republic, replacing the British monarch as its head of state and removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the UK almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in the Caribbean island.
The new republic was born to the cheers of hundreds of people lining Chamberlain Bridge in the capital, Bridgetown, at the stroke of midnight. A 21-gun salute fired as the national anthem of Barbados was played over a crowded Heroes Square.
Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, stood somberly as the royal standard was lowered and the new Barbados declared, a step republicans hope will spur discussion of similar proposals in other former British colonies where Queen Elizabeth II remains their sovereign.
After speeches celebrating the end of colonialism, Sandra Mason was sworn in as Barbados’s first president in the shadow of Barbados’s parliament. Mason was elected last month by a joint session of the country’s House of Assembly and Senate.
Barbados will remain a republic within the Commonwealth, a grouping of 54 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.
But its withdrawal from the monarchy will bring the number of Commonwealth realms – countries that continue to have the queen as their head of state – to 15, including Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
An island of nearly 300,000 people, Barbados gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1966.
The country had been under British control since the 1620s, as British settlers turned it into a sugar colony dependent on the labour of thousands of enslaved Africans until emancipation in 1834.
That brutal history in Barbados and other Caribbean islands has spurred calls for reparations from the UK.