On November 30th, 1966, Barbados claimed independence from Britain. 55 years later, the country, known for its rich cultural heritage and long history of subjugation under the British Empire and slave trade, has taken the final step to create a new national identity. On November 30th, 2021, Barbados removed Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom as their head of state, marking their transition from a parliamentary constitutional monarchy to a parliamentary republic. As such, this transition has established Barbados as the world’s newest republic.
The inauguration ceremony held for the new Barbados President Sandra Mason included notable figures such as Prince Charles of Wales and Rihanna in attendance. In order to be codified as a republic, a proposed Constitutional amendment bill that would establish Barbados’s independence passed unanimously in the national parliament. Mason, former governor-general, was nominated for the position of president by the prime minister and leader of the opposition. Mason was elected in October to assume the position. Queen Elizabeth II congratulated Mason, saying, “As you celebrate this momentous day, I send you and all Barbadians my warmest good wishes for your happiness, peace, and prosperity in the future.”
During the ceremony, Mason was awarded the Order of Freedom of Barbados. This Order is given “for outstanding and extraordinary achievement and merit in service to Barbados and humanity at large.” She received it for being the first president of Barbados since its transition to the status of a republic. She then presented Prince Charles with the Honorary Order of Freedom of Barbados. This was “in recognition of his support for the efforts of developing countries in the area of climate change and sustainable development and fostering the spirit of entrepreneurship among young people globally.” In his address to the country, Prince Charles showed his support for Barbados, saying, “You are the guardians of your heritage, firm craftsmen of your fate!” Prince Charles also acknowledged the damaging presence of British influence, saying that “the appalling atrocity of slavery…forever stains our history.” In addition to the awards given to Prince Charles and President Mason, Robyn Rihanna Fenty was presented with the Order of National Heroes, the highest honor bestowed by the republic of Barbados. The Order is said to recognize the most prominent figures in Barbados’ history. Rihanna became one of only 11 recipients, and the youngest of all. In her speech, Prime Minister Mottley said, “May you continue to ‘shine like a diamond’ and bring honor to your nation by your words, by your actions, and to do credit, wherever you shall go.”
As the Queen’s royal standard flag was lowered, Barbadians relished the symbolic moment. For a country that spend hundreds of years under British rule, this was a moment of immense pride for the country. Barbados, under Mason’s leadership, looks toward a future that they can take part in shaping completely. As Mason said, “We the people must give Republic Barbados its spirit and its substance…We must shape its future. We are each other’s and our nation’s keepers. We the people are Barbados.” As the world looks towards its youngest republic’s future, Barbados finds comfort in the reality that their next step and every step after that belongs entirely to them.