Rihanna and Garfield Sobers watch Prince Charles speak about slavery as Barbados becomes a republic

ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship reports on the ceremony held overnight to declare Barbados a republic, after almost 400 years as a British colony

With the lowering of the royal standard and the hoisting of the flag of the new president, Barbados officially cut ties with the British Crown last night. As it did so, Prince Charles spoke about the slave trade which “forever stains” British history. A night-time ceremony in the main square of the capital, Bridgetown, was watched by two national heroes, the singer Rihanna and the cricketer Sir Garfield Sobers.

They joined royalty and other Caribbean leaders to celebrate Barbados becoming a republic. The royal standard was lowered before midnight and packed away.

After the clock chimed 12 o’clock, the presidential flag was hoisted on the same pole.

The Prince of Wales said it was a moment for the country to “survey a new horizon”. But he acknowledged the horrors of slavery in a country where British colonial rulers permitted the shipping and selling of slaves from West Africa for nearly 200 years.

'The people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude,' Prince Charles said as he spoke as Barbados officially cut ties with the UK

The prince said: “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.” Slavery began in the mid -when the sugar plantations were developed in this island and was finally abolished in 1834. Charles said that “freedom, justice and self-determination” have guided Barbados to where they are today.

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We watched the ceremony where Prince Charles began Monday as a future King of Barbados, and ended the day as a foreign visiting royal in an independent republic. It was a party without a party atmosphere as all Barbadians had been urged to stay at home and watch on television because of the Covid pandemic.

The first ever President of Barbados is Dame Sandra Mason, the former governor general. Backstage we spoke to those taking part in the celebrations who described today as a moment for Barbados - a moment to start anew, a time to find its way in the world.

President-Elect Dame Sandra Mason taking Oath of Allegiance. Credit: AP

One musician described it to me as like a parent setting their child free to live their life. Some pressure groups here have said Prince Charles is not welcome and should apologise for the wealth his ancestors accumulated on the back of the slave trade.

There is no apology from the prince in the speech, but the British High Commissioner in Barbados, Scott Furssedonn-Wood, did tell me in an interview of the deeply held regret of the British government for the dark period in the UK’s history

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The Queen is not on Bajan notes and coins nor is she on the stamps so most of the changes here will be constitutional ones. The prison will no longer be “Her Majesty’s” prison. The politicians, judiciary, police and military will no longer swear allegiance to the British monarch.

Prince Charles joins in the celebrations of the country becoming a republic, with the national anthem playing amid firework noises

And of course, a baby born in Barbados today can now become the country’s Head of State. Prince Charles will leave this island on Tuesday, no longer a Prince of the Realm like he was when he arrived here on Sunday. He told Barbadians: “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.”

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