Barbados Officially Becomes the World’s Newest Republic

Barbados officially became a republic after removing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as president of the world’s newest republic during a ceremony held in the capital Bridgetown. The event, which coincided with its 55th anniversary of independence, was attended by the famous Barbados-born singer Rihanna and the Prince of Wales.

The official change of power marks a new era for the country, ending centuries of British influence in the territory and 200 years of seeing the Caribbean Island become a hub for the transatlantic slave trade.

Prince Charles, a guest of honor at the ceremony, delivered a speech acknowledging “the appalling atrocity of slavery” that Barbados faced and reiterated the lasting ties between the two nations despite the change in the country’s constitutional status. The new president granted the prince the prestigious Order of Freedom of Barbados.

As it was announced that Barbados would become a republic, attendees made a final salute to the British monarchy, lowering and replacing the Royal Standard flag. Queen Elizabeth II said the island had a “special place” in her heart and sent the nation her best wishes for “happiness, peace and prosperity in the future.”

The Queen was replaced as head of state by Dame Sandra Mason, 72, who served as the island’s governor since 2018. She was appointed president-elect of Barbados following a vote in parliament in held October.

After being sworn in, Dame Sandra Mason said: “Vessel Republic Barbados has set sail on her maiden voyage. May she weather all storms and land our country and citizens safely on the horizons and shores which are ahead of us.”

Barbados announced that it would remain within the Commonwealth, a flexible association of former British colonies and current dependencies with countries without historical ties with Britain.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley and other leading national figures swore allegiance to Barbados during the hour-long event. Mottley later announced that Rihanna, named ambassador for her country in 2018, would be declared a national heroine.

“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation,” Mottley told the pop star and businesswoman, whose real name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty.