Prince Charles acknowledges ‘atrocity of slavery’ as Barbados becomes a republic

·4-min read
Prince Charles acknowledges ‘atrocity of slavery’ as Barbados becomes a republic

The Royal Standard was lowered in Barbados for the final time on Tuesday - as the Queen was replaced as head of state and Prince Charles acknowledged the “appalling atrocity of slavery” the Caribbean island had suffered.

During a ceremony marking Barbados’ historic transition to a republic, Charles summed up the period when the UK was one of the leading players in the transatlantic slave trade as the “darkest days of our past”, but looking to the future said the “creation of this republic offers a new beginning”.

Barbados’ ties with the British monarchy going back almost 400 years were severed when its first president, Dame Sandra Mason, was sworn into office during the ceremony in the capital Bridgetown.

The Queen had earlier sent her congratulations to the new president, the island’s former Governor General, and said the island had held a “special place” in her heart since she first visited 55 years ago.

Charles watched the symbolic moment as the Queen’s standard was lowered and the presidential flag raised in its place at midnight local time.

Rihanna speaks with Prince Charles after she is bestowed the honour of
Rihanna speaks with Prince Charles after she is bestowed the honour of

Exactly 55 years after Barbados gained its independence from Britain - 396 years after it became part of the British Empire - the heir to the throne said: “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.

“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 told guests including Barbados’ prime minister Mia Mottley, cricket legend Sir Garfield Sobers and singer Rihanna: ““Emancipation, self-government and Independence were your way-points.

“Freedom, justice and self-determination have been your guides.”

The prince, who said he will “always consider myself a friend of Barbados,” added: “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.

His presence at the ceremony shows Britain’s desire to maintain strong bonds with the island, which will remain in the Commonwealth that Charles will one day lead as its head.

Dame Sandra was then sworn in as the country’s first president.

She had been elected to the largely figurehead post by its Parliament last month, without a referendum.

Prime Minister Ms Mottley, whose landslide election victory of 2018 led to her government pushing for the island to become a republic, remains the power in the country.

But the swearing-in of Dame Sandra still had huge symbolic importance and sparked scenes of cheering and dancing. Fireworks lit up the night sky as history was made.

After his speech, Charles was presented with the Order of Freedom of Barbados, the country’s highest-ranking honour, by the president.

Despite the history of slavery, there remains a level of respect for the monarchy and Britain in general, especially among the island’s older population.

In the 17th century, Barbados was claimed by the British and turned into a lucrative colony using the labour of hundreds of thousands of people brought over as slaves from Africa.

It became a major hub to produce sugar, an increasingly crucial commodity that helped enrich British slave owners.

PM Ms Mottley is among those Caribbean leaders who have argued for reparations to the island over the slave trade.

But largely the relations between the two countries have been harmonious and remain so.

The Queen, in her message, said she believed that friendship will continue.

“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,” she said.

Read More

Rihanna made national hero as Barbados becomes a republic

Queen sends ‘good wishes’ to new republic of Barbados

Prince Charles arrives as Barbados becomes republic

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting