Barbados became a republic Tuesday, cutting its colonial ties to the British throne and removing Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as the Caribbean nation’s head of state.
Sandra Mason, who won election last month, was inaugurated as the nation’s first president, saying in her address that “Republic Barbados has set sail on her maiden voyage.”
“We the people must give Republic Barbados its spirit and its substance,” Mason said. “We must shape its future. We are each other’s and our nation’s keepers. We the people are Barbados.”
Dignitaries, including Britain’s Prince Charles, attended a ceremony to mark the change, which comes 55 years to the day since Barbados declared its independence from Britain.
The heir to the British throne thanked officials for inviting him, and also used his remarks to acknowledge the long history of English settlers using the work of hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans on lucrative sugar plantations.
“The creation of this republic offers a new beginning,” said Prince Charles. “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.”
Barbados will remain part of the 54-member Commonwealth.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.