They announce 4 days of celebrations for the reign of Elizabeth II 0:43
Bridgetown, Barbados (CNN) -
Bridgetown, Barbados (CNN) -
At the stroke of midnight, Barbados severed its last remaining ties with the British monarchy after nearly 400 years.
In a ceremony Monday night, Prince Charles acknowledged the "appalling atrocity of slavery" as the Caribbean nation removed Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and named its first female president.
Official celebrations for the island's historic transition from kingdom to republic were held at National Heroes Square in the heart of the capital, Bridgetown.
Prince Charles attends the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony at Heroes' Square on November 29, 2021 in Bridgetown, Barbados.
The heir to the British throne arrived from London for the occasion and watched as the royal standard flag was lowered from the flagpole and the new presidential standard raised in its place.
Moments later, the queen's own ex-representative, Governor General Sandra Mason, a highly respected 73-year-old former jurist, was sworn in as president by the Chief Justice.
It has been exactly 55 years since Barbados declared its independence from Great Britain.
After receiving a 21-shot salute to underscore the historic change, Mason bestowed the country's highest-ranking honor, the Order of Liberty, on the Prince of Wales, a move designed to highlight the continued close relationship between Barbados and the Kingdom. United.
Prince Charles in Barbados: 'A New Beginning'
Prince Charles said he was "deeply moved" to have been invited to participate in the commemorations before acknowledging the "appalling atrocity of slavery."
"The creation of this republic offers a new beginning, but it also marks a point on a continuum, a milestone on the long road that it has not only traveled, but has built," he told the crowd.
"From the darkest days of our past, and the gruesome atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary strength. Emancipation, self-government and independence were their benchmarks. Freedom, justice and self-determination have been their guides, "he added.
"Her long journey has brought her to this moment, not as her destination, but as a point of view from which to contemplate a new horizon."
This is the first time in nearly three decades that a kingdom has chosen to remove the British monarch as head of state.
The last nation to do so was the island of Mauritius in 1992. Like that country, Barbados intends to remain part of the Commonwealth, a 54-member organization from most of the former British territories designed to foster cooperation and international trade.
Carlos, who arrived late Sunday as Prime Minister Mia Mottley's guest of honor at the ceremony, also spoke of his long relationship with the nation, having first visited it five decades ago.
He was interrupted by cheers after saying that he would always consider himself a friend from Barbados.
"Tonight they write the next chapter in the history of their nation, adding to the treasure of past achievements, collective enterprise and personal courage that already fill their pages," he said in closing his speech.
"His is a story in which all Barbadians, young and old, can be more proud, inspired by what has happened to them and confident in what awaits them."
The prince's comments went as far as the UK has come on the subject of slavery, but fell short of a formal apology.
Criticisms for real presence
Some voices in Bridgetown questioned the presence of the queen's son, pointing out that the island's historic relationship with the crown had its roots in slavery.
"No member of the royal family should participate in our great freedom day," activist David Denny told CNN.
"The royal family benefited financially from slavery and many of our African brothers and sisters died in the battle for change," added Denny, secretary general of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration.
An expedition on behalf of King James I of England claimed Barbados when its ships first reached its shores in 1625. A settlement was established two years later.
"It was the first laboratory of English colonialism in the tropics," Richard Drayton, professor of imperial and global history at Kings College London, told CNN.
"Barbados also provided an important source of private wealth in 17th and 18th century England," he added.
And he noted that many English families made substantial fortunes from sugar and slavery.
Citing that story, Denny described Prince Charles's involvement as "an insult to our people."
He also asked for financial reparations from the royal family, as well as the British government and other institutions that benefited from transporting people from Africa and enslaving them on plantations throughout the Caribbean.
Presidential inauguration ceremony on November 29, 2021 in Bridgetown, Barbados.
Scott Furssedonn-Wood, the British High Commissioner in Barbados told CNN: "Clearly, people in Africa, in this region, in all parts of the world still feel that deep sense of injustice and it is quite correct that we recognize that, that we are determined to may such a thing never happen again. "
Denny said George Floyd's death in Minneapolis last year "created a worldwide conscience" and sparked solidarity protests on the island.
One result of the demonstrations: An empty pedestal now stands in Bridgetown's main square, where once stood a bronze statue of British Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, a defender of the slave trade on the island.
A stone's throw from the ceremony site on Swan Street, a popular shopping area with locals in downtown Bridgetown, many Barbadians also welcomed the change.
Opinions on the new republic
Roger Goodridge, a 59-year-old toy salesman, described the switch to a republic as "long overdue" and said he was not surprised by Carlos' visit.
"The time for 'Little England' is over. Now we are alone and on our way to our greatest success: breaking the waters and moving on to another stage of our life."
Victoria Norvill, a 16-year-old student who was enjoying the holiday with some friends, told CNN: "I feel very good that Barbados becomes a republic because we can be free and independent."
Others expressed support, but wondered if the transition had been "a little too fast."
The government created a 10-member group tasked with helping manage the transition from a monarchical system to a republic in May this year.
"It's too rushed. Not everyone has thought about it yet and there are a lot of people who don't even know what a republic is," said Andre Moore, 36.
"I think they should have at least taken a whole year to deal with this or at least two years. I think two years to really think about it, to have a settled mind for what they have prepared for this whole republic thing."