Barbados is preparing to remove Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as its head of state and become a republic, as it severs imperial ties some 400 years after English ships first reached the Caribbean island.
Britain’s Prince Charles arrived on Sunday night to join the inauguration of President-elect Sandra Mason in replacement of Queen Elizabeth, a move by Barbados to shed the final vestiges of a colonial system that once spanned the globe.
“Tonight’s the night!” reads the front-page headline of Barbados’ Daily Nation newspaper.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the leader of Barbados’ republican movement, will help lead Monday’s ceremony.
Mottley has won global attention by denouncing the effects of climate change on small Caribbean nations.
A celebration including Barbadian music and dance will begin at 8pm (1100 AEDT), with Mason to be inaugurated just after midnight – coinciding with Barbados Independence Day.
Prince Charles will give a speech highlighting the continuing friendship of the two nations despite the change in constitutional status.
Barbados will remain a republic within the Commonwealth.
Activist David Denny celebrated the creation of the republic but said he opposed the visit by Prince Charles, noting the royal family for centuries benefited from the slave trade.
“Our movement would also like the royal family to pay a reparation,” Denny said in an interview.
British colonialists shipped over captured African slaves to work the island’s sugarcane fields and Barbados became a focus of the brutal trans-atlantic slave trade.
Today’s population of under 300,000 is overwhelmingly of African descent.
Some residents acknowledge they are uncertain what the transition to a republic even means or why it matters Others would have preferred not to change.
“They should leave Queen Elizabeth be – leave her as the boss. I don’t understand why we need to be a republic,” said Sean Williams, 45, standing in the shadow of an independence monument.
The last time the Queen was removed as head of state was in 1992 when Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean, proclaimed itself a republic.
The shift may spur discussion of similar proposals in other former British colonies that have the Queen as their sovereign, which include Jamaica, Australia and Canada.