After 396 years, the sun has set on the British monarchy’s reign over the Caribbean island of Barbados, with a handover ceremony at midnight on Monday marking the birth of the world’s newest republic.
As the clock struck 12, the Royal Standard flag representing the Queen was lowered over a crowded Heroes Square in Bridgetown and Carol Roberts-Reifer, chief executive officer of the National Cultural Foundation, made the declaration of Barbados’ transition to its new constitutional status.
Guests in the square applauded as Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as president by the chief justice and took the oath of allegiance to her country. Hundreds of people lining Chamberlain Bridge in the capital cheered and a 21-gun salute was fired as the national anthem was played. Barbadian singer Rihanna also attended the ceremony and was declared a national hero.
“Republic Barbados has set sail on her maiden voyage,” Mason 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.
A solemn Prince Charles was on hand to witness the transition. “The creation of this republic offers a new beginning,” he said in a speech to the ceremony. “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.”