The Caribbean island of Barbados has removed Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and become the world’s newest republic.
In an overnight ceremony in the capital, Bridgetown, Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as president.
Prince Charles, the Queen’s son, and Barbadian singer-superstar Rihanna attended the event, which coincided with the country’s 55th anniversary of independence. The sun set on the British monarchy’s reign over the Caribbean island after 396 years.
“Republic Barbados has set sail on her maiden voyage,” Dame Sandra said in her inauguration speech as the first president of the country, recognising the “complex, fractured and turbulent world” it would need to navigate.
“Our country must dream big dreams and fight to realise them,” the former governor-general told those gathered for the ceremony.
Prince Charles said: “The creation of this republic offers a new beginning. From the darkest days of our past and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history, people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.”
In a message to Mason, the Queen wished all Barbadians happiness, peace and prosperity. “On this significant occasion and your assumption of office as the first president of Barbados, I extend my congratulations to you and all Barbadians,” she said.
“I first visited your beautiful country on the eve of independence in early 1966, and I am very pleased that my son is with you today. Since then, the people of Barbados have held a special place in my heart; it is a country rightly proud of its vibrant culture, its sporting prowess, and its natural beauty, that attracts visitors from all over the world, including many people from the United Kingdom.”
She continued: “Over the years, our countries have enjoyed a partnership based on common values, shared prosperity, and close collaboration on a wide range of issues, including recent work on climate change. It is also a source of great satisfaction that Barbados remains an active participant within the Commonwealth, and I look forward to the continuation of the friendship between our two countries and peoples.”
Barbadian super star Robyn @rihanna Fenty will be Barbados’ newest National Hero!
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley announced that global icon Rihanna will be conferred with the honour of National Hero of Barbados! #MyBarbados #LoveBarbados #VisitBarbados #CelebratingWhoWeAre pic.twitter.com/HZrjjnDRLy
— Visit Barbados (@Barbados) November 30, 2021
On the occasion Barbados declared singer Rihanna a national hero. The country’s prime minister, Mia Mottley, said: “On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you, the designee, for national hero of Barbados, ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty may you continue to shine like a diamond.”
Rihanna accepted the honour to cheers from the crowd.