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A New Republic – Barbados Removes the Queen as the Head of State – Lesson

Barbados is now an independent nation.

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Queen Elizabeth ll arrives in Barbados, 1977. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

As Americans, we celebrate our independence with pride every year on the Fourth of July. Our ancestors were the winners of the Revolutionary War and started a brand new republic, The United States of America. On November 30, 2021, citizens of Barbados celebrated their independence as they transformed from a realm to a republic.

It was once a colony of the British Empire, but Queen Elizabeth will no longer be Head of State on the Caribbean island. Sandra Mason will replace her as the Bajans’ (that’s what you call citizens of Barbados) first president.

The Commonwealth Realm of Barbados

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A scene in Bridgetown, capital city of Barbados. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The first English ship reached the Caribbean island in 1625, and the land was claimed by King James I as a British colony. The island operated under British rule until it gained independence in 1966. Even though it was an independent nation, Barbados kept its ties to the British monarch and stayed under British control. A governor-general, appointed by the queen, represented and maintained British rule on the island. Barbados was a part of the British Commonwealth because it chose to keep the Queen as the Head of State.

What Does It Mean to Be a Republic?

Unlike a monarchy, in a republic, the people hold power instead of a king or queen. Usually, the people in a republic elect has representatives to make laws.

Though Barbados gained its independence in 1966, the island was still under the direction and rule of the British crown. Becoming a republic cuts the ties with the queen and gives the people and their elected officials the power to make decisions and laws.

The Ceremony

At midnight on November 30, 2021, the 55th anniversary of independence, Barbados officially became a republic. Prince Charles, of the British royal family, flew in to speak at the ceremony and watch as Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as president of the republic. The ceremony took place at the National Heroes Square in Barbados’ capital city, Bridgetown.

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Prime Minister Mia Mottley (left), Sandra Mason (center), and the Prince of Wales (right). (Photo by Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images)

As the first president, Mason had this to say as she stood before her people and accepted her new title: “We the people must give Republic Barbados its spirit and its substance. We must shape its future. We are each other’s and our nation’s keepers. We the people are Barbados.”

As a display of support, Prince Charles said, in part, “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 traveled, but which you have built.”

Now free from foreign rule, Barbados is a truly independent nation. For nearly 400 years, Bajans have celebrated their independence on November 30 each year. That date will continue to be a celebratory day, though now as a republic rather than a member of the British Commonwealth.