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Barbados breaks with the queen and becomes the world's newest republic

Barbados's Prime Minister Mia Mottley, left, asks the country's new president, Sandra Mason, seated at right, to make Barbadian singer Rihanna the country's 11th National Hero during a ceremony to declare Barbados a republic Tuesday.
Randy Brooks
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Barbados's Prime Minister Mia Mottley, left, asks the country's new president, Sandra Mason, seated at right, to make Barbadian singer Rihanna the country's 11th National Hero during a ceremony to declare Barbados a republic Tuesday.

Fireworks lit up the sky, crowds cheered and the island nation of Barbados officially became a parliamentary republic at midnight Monday, 55 years after its independence from the United Kingdom.

Dame Sandra Mason was named the first president of the country, which had announced in September 2020 it would step away from colonial ties, remove Queen Elizabeth as head of state and complete the process of transitioning to a republic.

The nation ushered in its new phase with singing, musical performances and an appearance by multi-hyphenate and Barbadian-born Rihanna, who was declared a national hero.

The ceremony was attended by Prince Charles, heir apparent to the British throne. In a speech commemorating the transition, he noted the legacy of slavery inflicted upon the island by the British.

"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," Prince Charles said.

"We the people must give Republic Barbados its spirit and its substance," Mason said in her address. "We must shape its future. We are each other's and our nation's keepers. We the people are Barbados."

Barbados will stay part of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of over 50 countries that retain some ties to Britain. Countries that still call the queen their head of state include Australia, Canada and Jamaica.

NPR's All Things Considered spoke with Mackie Holder, consulate general of Barbados in New York, on whether this may push other countries to make similar moves. Listen here.

"Other Caribbean countries certainly will follow. Whether that will happen in six months, in a year — who knows? But I expect as we go further into the 21st century that we will see some changes and among other countries in the Caribbean as well," Holder said.


This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Nell Clark is an editor at Morning Edition and a writer for NPR's Live Blog. She pitches stories, edits interviews and reports breaking news. She started in radio at campus station WVFS at Florida State University, then covered climate change and the aftermath of Hurricane Michael for WFSU in Tallahassee, Fla. She joined NPR in 2019 as an intern at Weekend All Things Considered. She is proud to be a member of NPR's Peer-to-Peer Trauma Support Team, a network of staff trained to support colleagues dealing with trauma at work. Before NPR, she worked as a counselor at a sailing summer camp and as a researcher in a deep-sea genetics lab.