Barbados on Tuesday declared itself the newest republic in the world, officially breaking ties with Queen Elizabeth II and the British royal family.
In the a midnight ceremony in its capital Bridgetown, the Caribbean island nation installed Dame Sandra Mason as its new president and head of state. Mason had previously served as Governor-General, Elizabeth’s official representative in the country.
“The Republic of Barbados has set sail on its maiden voyage,” Mason said after swearing. “May she withstand all storms and land our country and our citizens safely on the horizons and coasts ahead.”
Barbados announced plans to become a republic last year, ending nearly 400 years of British presence in the country.
It has been an independent nation since 1966, but the queen had served as a formal head of state, as she still does for Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Jamaica, among other nations.
His eldest son, Prince Charles, attended the ceremony, watching as the British monarch’s royal flag was lowered and then replaced.
Charles received the Barbados Order of Freedom, telling the new country that his mother wished them all the best.
He also spoke out against the British colonial history of slavery in the country, which had been one of the original colonies in England for slaves.
“From the darkest days of our past and the atrocious atrocity of slavery, which forever tarnishes our history, the people of this island have forged their way with extraordinary strength,” Charles said in the his speech.
“Tonight you write the next chapter in the history of your nation,” said the prince.
After swearing allegiance to the new president, Prime Minister Mia Mottley made sure that one of the first official acts of the new republic was to pay homage to one of her most famous native daughters: singer Rihanna.
The music superstar, who was named ambassador in 2018 and attended Tuesday’s ceremony, was declared a national hero for “managing the imagination of the world through the pursuit of excellence, with the his creativity, his discipline and, above all, his extraordinary commitment to the land of his birth “.
“Let it continue to shine like a diamond,” the prime minister said.