Atrocity of slavery stains our history, Prince Charles tells Barbados as it ends royal rule

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·5-min read
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  • Charles, Prince of Wales
    Charles, Prince of Wales
    Eldest son and heir-apparent of Queen Elizabeth II (born 1948)
  • Sandra Mason
    President of Barbados
The Prince of Wales arrives the presidential inauguration ceremony at Heroes Square in Bridgetown, Barbados - REUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool
The Prince of Wales arrives the presidential inauguration ceremony at Heroes Square in Bridgetown, Barbados - REUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool

The Prince of Wales became the first member of the Royal family to formally acknowledge the “appalling atrocity of slavery” in the Caribbean, saying it “forever stains our history”.

The Prince, who was in Barbados to witness the island officially become a republic, offered words of conciliation and respect to the nation, which has replaced the Queen as head of state.

In a speech delivered in the early hours of Tuesday morning, after the lowering of the Queen’s Standard for the final time, the Prince told a crowd that the creation of the republic offered a “new beginning” for Barbados.

Watch: Charles meets Rihanna at Barbados becomes a republic

The monarch, who from Tuesday morning is no longer Queen of Barbados, sent her own gracious message to its people with her “warmest good wishes”.

Calling the moment a “milestone on the long road you have not only travelled, but which you have built”, the Prince said: “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.

“Emancipation, self-government and independence were your way-points. Freedom, justice and self-determination have been your guides. Your long journey has brought you to this moment, not as your destination, but as a vantage point from which to survey a new horizon.”

Entertainers perform during the inauguration ceremony - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Entertainers perform during the inauguration ceremony - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Queen: Barbadians hold ‘a special place in my heart’

The Queen, who at 95 could not travel to the Caribbean country in person, sent her own message to Dame Sandra Mason, the new president who replaces her as head of state, telling the people of Barbados that she congratulated them on “this significant occasion”.

“As you celebrate this momentous day, I send you and all Barbadians my warmest good wishes for your happiness, peace and prosperity in the future,” she said.

(L-R) Former cricketer Garfield Sobers, new President Sandra Mason, singer Rihanna and the Prince of Wales stand during the ceremony - Arthur Edwards/Pool
(L-R) Former cricketer Garfield Sobers, new President Sandra Mason, singer Rihanna and the Prince of Wales stand during the ceremony - Arthur Edwards/Pool

Both the Queen and the Prince of Wales reminisced about their previous visits to “your beautiful country”, with Her Majesty saying its people “have held a special place in my heart”.

Singer Rihanna (left) looks on as Prince Charles addresses during the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony - Toby Melville - Pool/Getty Images
Singer Rihanna (left) looks on as Prince Charles addresses during the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony - Toby Melville - Pool/Getty Images

At a midnight ceremony, where the Prince was guest of honour, Dame Sandra, Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados, and the country’s people watched as the military performed a final march past and salute to the monarchy before the momentous moment of the Queen’s Standard being lowered.

The Prince, wearing a face mask, watched in silence as the flag was folded, rolled and wrapped before being put away for good.

Members of the Barbados Coast Guard remove the Queen's Royal Standard flag - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Members of the Barbados Coast Guard remove the Queen's Royal Standard flag - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Moments later, the new presidential standard was raised, and Ms Mottley took the oath to Barbados and the presentation of new military colours.

Rihanna thanks the island's first-ever president, Dame Sandra Mason, after being made a national hero - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty
Rihanna thanks the island's first-ever president, Dame Sandra Mason, after being made a national hero - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

The ceremony saw popstar Rihanna, born Robyn Fenty and raised in Bridgetown, awarded the Order of the National Hero of Barbados in honour of her "visionary and pioneering leadership", creativity and hard work on the world stage. 

 Prince Charles - Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS
Prince Charles - Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS

Prince ‘deeply touched’ to witness historic moment

The moment of becoming a republic ushered in a host of subtle but symbolic changes to island life, as Government House is renamed State House, prisoners are no longer kept at “Her Majesty’s Pleasure” and the emblems of the British Crown are removed from flags, military uniforms and buttons.

The Prince, who will be the next head of Commonwealth, told the crowd how he was “deeply touched” to be invited to join “this moment of such significance”.

He has previously acknowledged the horrors of the slave trade once before during a visit to Accra, Ghana, saying Britain had a responsibility to ensure the world never forgot the “appalling injustice”.

The Royal family and Britain have come under pressure to apologise for the atrocities of Empire in the Caribbean, with recent royal tours, including a solo visit from the Duke of Sussex in 2016, inspiring small scale protests.

Campaigners are demanding reparations for slavery, with the Black Lives Matter movement said by some to have hastened the decision, taken without a referendum, for Barbados to become a republic.

The ceremony also included a celebration of the poetry, music and culture of Barbados, with dancers, schoolchildren and performers on stilts putting on a show for guests of honour in National Heroes Square.

Prince Charles said: "I remain deeply committed to this very special country, and to your future prosperity and wellbeing.  

"I shall always consider myself a friend of Barbados.

"Tonight you write the next chapter of your nation’s story, adding to the treasury of past achievement, collective enterprise and personal courage which already fill its pages.

"Yours is a story in which every Barbadian, young and old, can take the greatest pride – inspired by what has come before them and confident about what lies ahead." 

Watch: Out with the queen

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