Barbados declared itself the world’s newest republic on Tuesday, officially severing ties with Queen Elizabeth II and the British royal family.
At a midnight ceremony in its capital of Bridgetown, the Caribbean island nation installed Dame Sandra Mason as its new president and head of state. Mason had previously served as governor-general, Elizabeth’s official representative in the country.
“Vessel Republic Barbados has set sail on her maiden voyage,” Mason said after being sworn in. “May she weather all storms and land our country and citizens safely on the horizons and shores which are ahead of us.”
Barbados announced plans to become a republic last year, ending nearly 400 years of British presence in the country.
It has been an independent nation since 1966, but the queen had served as formal head of state, as she still does for Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Jamaica, among other nations.
Her oldest son, Prince Charles, was in attendance for the ceremony, watching on as the British monarch’s royal standard flag was lowered and then replaced.
Charles was awarded the Order of Freedom of Barbados, telling the new country that his mother wished them well.
He also spoke out against the British colonial history of slavery in the country, which had been one of England’s original colonies for enslaved people.
“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,” Charles said in his speech.
“Tonight you write the next chapter of your nation’s story,” the prince said.
After she swore allegiance to the new president, Prime Minister Mia Mottley made sure one of the first official acts of the new republic was to honor one of their most famous native daughters: the singer Rihanna.
The music superstar, who was named an ambassador in 2018 and was in attendance at Tuesday’s ceremony, was declared a national hero for “commanding the imagination of the world through the pursuit of excellence, with her creativity, her discipline, and, above all else, her extraordinary commitment to the land of her birth.”
“May you continue to shine like a diamond,” the prime minister said.
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