Barbados becomes republic as Prince Charles acknowledges ‘atrocity of slavery'

Rihanna, who grew up on the Caribbean island, is made a national hero

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Britain's Prince Charles has acknowledged the “appalling atrocity of slavery” and promised an inspirational future for Barbados during a ceremony marking the Caribbean country's historic transition to a republic.

Barbados celebrated becoming a republic with a party and by naming singer Rihanna, who grew up on the island, as a national hero.

Queen Elizabeth II also sent a message congratulating the island nation and its people.

The Prince of Wales described slavery as something “which forever stains our history”.

“The creation of this republic offers a new beginning, but it also marks a point on a continuum, a milestone on the long road you have not only travelled, but which you have built,” Prince Charles told guests on Monday, including Prime Minister Mia Mottley.

“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.

“Emancipation, self-government and independence were your waypoints. Freedom, justice and self-determination have been your guides.

“Your long journey has brought you to this moment, not as your destination, but as a vantage point from which to survey a new horizon.”

His words echoed a speech he gave during a tour of West Africa in 2018 when, after visiting a site in Ghana where Africans were shipped to a life of slavery, he described the slave trade as an “indelible stain” on the world.

The prince added: “Tonight you write the next chapter of your nation's story, adding to the treasury of past achievement, collective enterprise and personal courage which already fill its pages.

“Yours is a story in which every Barbadian, young and old, can take the greatest pride – inspired by what has come before them and confident about what lies ahead.”

Ms Mottley surprised guests when she said her government had recommended Rihanna, who was at the celebration, be made a member of the Order of National Heroes.

During Monday's historic transition, Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as president and head of state.

The culture, history and achievements of Barbados were celebrated with music, dance and speeches at the ceremony. A number of poets and activists criticised colonialism and called on the country to embrace the opportunities of becoming a republic.

Queen Elizabeth praises 'vibrant' Barbados

Queen Elizabeth, who was head of state until the ceremony, reflected on her ties to Barbados.

“I first visited your beautiful country on the eve of independence in early 1966, and I am very pleased that my son is with you today.

“Since then, the people of Barbados have held a special place in my heart. It is a country rightfully proud of its vibrant culture, its sporting prowess, and its natural beauty that attracts visitors from all over the world, including many people from the United Kingdom.

“Over the years, our countries have enjoyed a partnership based on common values, shared prosperity and close collaboration on a wide range of issues, including recent work on climate change.

“It is also a source of great satisfaction that Barbados remains an active participant within the Commonwealth, and I look forward to the continuation of the friendship between our two countries and peoples.

“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.”

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Updated: November 30, 2021, 1:39 PM