The island nation of Barbados will no longer be under the rule of Queen Elizabeth II beginning on Tuesday, marking the first time the queen has been removed as a head of state since 1992.
The island voted through its parliament to become a republic, and will hold ceremonies and parades on Monday to commemorate the transition. Prince Charles will be representing the queen at the ceremonies, where he will give a speech and be presented with the Order of Freedom of Barbados, one of the nation’s highest honors.
“As your constitutional status changes, it was important to me that I should join you to reaffirm those things which do not change,” an excerpt of the prince’s speech reads, according to EuroNews. “For example, the close and trusted partnership between Barbados and the United Kingdom as vital members of the Commonwealth.”
Some protests are expected, as many in Barbados want to address the history of British imperialism and the island’s history with the slave trade. The prince’s speech will not address the history of British imperialism on the island, according to Harper’s Bazaar.
Sandra Mason, a former teacher and banker who was elected as the nation’s first president in October, will be inaugurated at midnight after the ceremonies. She views this moment as a chance for her nation to move on from its past, and, a year ago, she vowed to “fully leave our colonial past behind.”
While Barbados has been an independent nation since 1966, it has retained the queen as its head of state up until now. The day of celebration on Monday is the 55th anniversary of the nation’s independence. Barbados will remain in the British Commonwealth joining a group of 54 Commonwealth republics across the globe.
The full transition of Barbados to a republic on Monday will give some people a reason to celebrate in the midst of an economic crisis.
The nation has been hurt by supply-chain issues and struggles with inflation. Unemployment is close to 16%, and the coronavirus travel restrictions have also hurt the country’s reliance on tourism, but the decision to leave the monarchy behind is not for economic reasons. Instead, President-elect Mason is focused on the political implications of the monarchy’s removal.
“Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state,” Mason said. “This is the ultimate statement of confidence of who we are and what we are capable of achieving.”
Experts believe that this move by Barbados could trigger similar decisions by nations, such as Australia, Jamaica and New Zealand, countries that still look to the Queen of England as their heads of state.
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