On Nov. 30, the island country of Barbados declared itself a parliamentary republic after it removed Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state.
The ceremony commemorating this event occurred in the capital city, Bridgetown, where Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as president after serving as the governor-general since 2018. Mason’s newfound position came after the Parliament of Barbados elected her as president-elect on Oct. 20 and after an original nomination by both the prime minister and leader of the opposition on Oct. 12.
The position of president remains largely ceremonial in the same way the Queen held power, as both the prime minister and the Cabinet still hold de facto power (power held in reality while not directly dictated by the law).
Additionally, this ceremony was held on the same date as the 55th anniversary of the country’s independence from Great Britain on Nov. 30, 1966. Despite this, the country still remains part of the Commonwealth of Nations, an organization made up of former British colonies.
This new switch to republicanism has faced backlash from detractors. A survey from March 2015 found that, of Barbadian citizens, 64% supported staying with the monarchy, 24% supported the change to a republic, and 11% demonstrated indifference to either. The final decision to make the switch to a republic lacked a highly-requested national referendum – a national vote to decide a political question – something often seen in major decisions such as independence.
However, some major guests of honor were present at the ceremony. Prince Charles, the heir to the royal British throne, gave a speech at the event describing the horrors of slavery that existed during British rule and welcomed the newfound independence of the island.
Barbados invited another guest of honor to the event, multi-Grammy-winning recording artist Rihanna. The country of fewer than 300,000 people awarded the Barbadian-born singer with one of the highest honors in the country, the Order of National Heroes, as well as bestowed her with the title of “the right excellent.”
Rihanna had previously received recognition from the government of Barbados in 2018 when the country appointed her as Barbadian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of education, tourism and investment.