Barbados removed Britain's Queen Elizabeth II as head of state at midnight local time on Monday. The Royal Standard flag that represents the queen was lowered in the capital Bridgetown in a ceremony that coincides with the country's 55th year of independence. Dame Sandra Mason was inaugurated as the first president of the Caribbean country, having been elected by a two-thirds majority vote in the Barbadian parliament.
In attendance at the celebrations was Prince Charles, heir apparent to the British throne, who arrived in the country on Sunday. "We the people must give Republic Barbados its spirit and its substance," Mason said in an address. "We must shape its future. We are each other's and our nation:s keepers. We the people are Barbados." After a display of dance and music from the island, Barbadian singer Rihanna was declared a national hero by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who led Barbados' republican movement.
Barbados is the first Caribbean country to abolish its monarchy since the 1970s, when Guyana, Dominica, and Trinidad and Tobago became republics. The last time Queen Elizabeth was removed as head of state was in 1992 when Mauritius proclaimed itself a republic. Although the country ceases to be a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth as its sovereign, it will remain within the Commonwealth of Nations, an association of 54 countries of which both republics and monarchies are members.
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