Barbados parts ways with British queen to become a republic

72-year-old Sandra Mason assumes charge as 1st president of Caribbean Island.

Barbados parts ways with British queen to become a republic

Barbados has officially removed Britain's Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state, becoming a republic.

In a ceremony in the capital Bridgetown late Monday, 72-year-old Sandra Mason assumed the presidency.

The event, which also marked the island's 55th independence anniversary, was attended by Prince Charles representing the British monarchy that ruled the Caribbean island for 394 years. It lasted for several hours and included Barbadian dance and music, and speeches celebrating the end of colonialism.

A 21-gun salute was fired as the national anthem of Barbados was played. A final salute was made to the British monarchy and the Royal Standard flag got replaced.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley awarded the Prince of Wales the Order of Freedom of Barbados "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."

Prince Charles said the creation of the republic "offers a new beginning." "From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude," he said in his speech.

"Freedom, justice and self-determination have been your guide. Your long journey has brought you to this moment," he said, adding that "the close and trusted partnership between Barbados and the UK as members of the commonwealth" will continue.

During the republican celebrations, Caribbean singer Rihanna was declared a national hero of Barbados.

Premier Mottley said she recommended Robyn Rihanna Fenty for "commanding the imagination of the world through the pursuit of excellence with her creativity, discipline and extraordinary commitment to the land of her birth."

Barbados was one of England's first slave colonies, and English settlers first occupied the island in 1627.

Slavery was abolished in Barbados in 1834 and the country became fully independent in 1966, still remaining in the Commonwealth and having the British queen as the head of state.

Queen extends congratulations

In a message on the occasion, Queen Elizabeth II extended her congratulations to the new president and all Barbadians.

“… Barbados remains an active participant within the Commonwealth, and I look forward to the continuation of the friendship between our two countries and peoples,” she said. “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.”

Hüseyin Demir