Barbados will officially become an independent republic tonight (Nov. 29) after cutting ties with Queen Elizabeth II and the British Royal Family. In an inauguration ceremony scheduled for Tuesday (Nov. 30), the Caribbean island will swear in Sandra Mason, former governor general, as its first president.
According to NBC News, Mason was elected to the symbolic position by Parliament last month. However, Prime Minister Mia Mottley will continue to run the country.
Tuesday will also mark Barbados’ 55th anniversary of independence. On Nov. 30, 1966; the nation became an independent state and commonwealth realm, but opted to continue recognizing Elizabeth II as queen.
Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, traveled to Barbados and is set to attend Tuesday’s ceremony. He will also reportedly deliver a speech about the relationship between the two countries.
“As your constitutional status changes, it was important to me that I should join you to reaffirm those things which do not change. For example, the close and trusted partnership between Barbados and the United Kingdom as vital members of the Commonwealth,” an excerpt of his speech reads, via his office.
Last year, Mason promised Barbados would become a republic by its 55th anniversary of independence.
“Having obtained independence over half a century ago, our country can be in no doubt about its capacity for self-governance,” she said at the time. “The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind.”
Britain colonized Barbados in the 1600s and, through the labor of enslaved Africans, turned the island into a hub for sugar production. Slave trade continued on the island until it was outlawed by the Slave Trade Act of 1807, and enslaved people on the island were finally emancipated following the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.
Queen Elizabeth II is still the head of state in 15 other countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Jamaica. Barbados’ decision to become a republic follows similar acts by other countries like Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica.
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