The island paradise turning its back on the Queen: How rising republicanism will see one of UK’s oldest colonies Barbados sever its 400-year-old ties with the Crown to ‘leave its past behind’… after taking £500M from China
Today, nearly 400 years after Barbados was claimed for her ancestor King James I by an English ship, the Queen‘s role as head of state of the island comes to an end.
The move by the nation’s politicians to turn it into a republic comes more than 50 years after it became fully independent in 1966.
That year, Her Majesty and Prince Philip were greeted by rapturous crowds as they touched down in Bridgetown, Barbados’s capital, for the start of a five-week tour of the Caribbean.
But the enduring popularity of the Queen amongst many Barbadians has not halted the ultimately successful drive to remove the monarch.
Prince Charles last night landed in Barbados ahead of the historic ceremony which will remove his mother’s symbolic power before current Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason is sworn in tomorrow as the country’s first president.
The ceremony will follow the decision which was made last year, when Ms Mason said that the ‘time has come’ to fully leave our colonial past behind.
Today, nearly 400 years after Barbados was claimed for her ancestor King James I by an English ship, the Queen’s role as head of state of the island comes to an end. Above: The Queen in Barbados during her five-week tour of the Caribbean in 1966
The move by the nation’s politicians to turn it into a republic comes more than 50 years after it became a fully independent nation in 1966. That year, Her Majesty and Prince Philip were greeted by rapturous crowds (pictured left) as they touched down in Bridgetown, Barbados’s capital, for the start of a five-week tour of the Caribbean. Right: The Queen in Barbados during her Silver Jubilee tour in 1977
However, in recent years Barbados has embraced a reported $490million in funding from China for new developments – although any suggestions that this relationship may create its own problems have been dismissed by the country’s prime minister, Mia Amor Mottley.
Barbados’s move to remove the Queen as its head of state comes nearly 30 years after the last nation to do so – the island of Mauritius – in 1992.
When English sailors settled on Barbados in 1627, it became Britain’s second colony – after Virginia had been founded in North America.
From that starting point, the British Empire went on to cover nearly a quarter of the world’s surface and population.
Barbados’s own parliament – which was modelled on that of its colonial master back in England – was established in 1639, making it the third oldest in the entire Commonwealth.
In the years that followed, thousands of West African slaves were shipped to the island to work on sugar plantations.
Prince Charles last night landed in Barbados ahead of the historic ceremony which will remove his mother’s symbolic power before current Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason is sworn in tomorrow as the country’s first president
Queen Elizabeth ll is greeted by the public during a walkabout in Barbados on November 01, 1977 in Barbados
Prince Charles arrives in Barbados for ceremony which will remove his mother as head of state
Prince Charles landed in Barbados last night ahead of a historic ceremony removing his mother, the Queen, as head of state after 55 years.
The Caribbean island will become the world’s newest republic as it swears in its first president, Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason, on Tuesday – the anniversary of its independence from Britain in 1966.
Chinese pressure is said to be fuelling a drive to remove the Queen as head of state in Barbados, British MPs have warned. Beijing has pumped at least $490million dollars into the island’s tourism industry in recent years – and even more in loans. The money has forced Dame Sandra to deny China is the driving force behind ending 400 years of loyalty to the British crown since King James I.
The heir to the throne flew into the Caribbean on the ministerial jet Voyager late on Sunday night, and was greeted by a large diplomatic party led by Britain’s high commissioner to Barbados, Scott Furssedonn-Wood.
Barbadian prime minister Mia Motley and military chiefs lined a red carpet and were introduced to the prince. Also part of the welcoming group was a Guard of Honour and military band, and a deafening 21-gun salute rang out across the Grantley Adams International Airport to mark the prince’s arrival.
In a speech at just after midnight in Barbados tonight, the Prince of Wales will highlight the shared goals and enduring bonds between Barbados and the UK during a ceremony marking the Caribbean country’s transition to a republic. The Royal Standard will then be lowered and the Presidential Standard will fly from the flag pole instead.
The prince was present during the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 and he represented the Queen when Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980.
It is estimated that between 1627 to 1807, some 387,000 Africans were sent to the island against their will and the country shifted from having a majority white population of voluntary settlers to a majority black population.
On August 28, 1833, the British Government passed the Slavery Abolition Act, and slaves across the British Empire, including in Barbados, were granted emancipation.
When the island became independent in 1966 – after the island was granted internal autonomy in 1961 – the Queen continued as head of state, this time at the helm of the separate monarchy of Barbados.
Following her visit that year, Her Majesty first returned in 1977 – when she embarked on Concorde for the first time on the journey home – and again in 1985 and 1989, with each visit being well-received by Barbadians.
But these visits did not quell the desire among politicians and many ordinary Barbadians for the country to sever its formal ties with the English monarchy.
The idea was formally looked at in the 1970s but it was decided that there was still not enough public support.
The next milestone came in 1998, when a Barbados constitutional review commission recommended republican status.
Then, in 2003, the country opted to replace the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice, located in Trinidad and Tobago’s Port of Spain, as its final appeals court.
In 2005, legislation was passed to allow for a referendum on the shift to republicanism, but the actual vote never took place.
In 2015, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said ‘we have to move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in the very near future’.
In the last two years, republicanism has gathered pace further amid the fallout from the Black Lives Matter movement, renewed focus on the horrendous history of the slave trade, and Britain’s catastrophic handling of the Windrush scandal.
But this month’s shift away from Britain’s monarchy has been pushed through by PM Ms Mottley and agreed by the parliament, where the politician’s Labour party controls 29 out of 30 seats.
Some politicians are opposed to the move. Verla de Peiza, 50, the leader of the country’s Democratic Labour Party, told the Daily Mail’s Robert Hardman: ‘A referendum would have been great or, at the very least, some sort of proper consultation.
‘We were promised an electoral college to discuss a new constitution. There’s been nothing of the sort.’
Dr Ronnie Yearwood, 42, a lecturer in law at the University of the West Indies, added: ‘There was no clamour on the streets for this.
Queen Elizabeth II of England, left, and Prince Philip, right, are entertained by the Earl and Countess of Avon, at their house, Villa Nova, in Barbados, West Indies, February 15th 1966
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is warmly welcomed by the crowds outside the Parliament Buildings in Bridgetown, Barbados, on February 24, 1975
‘But if you criticise this process, or ask for a referendum you are accused of being anti-republic.
‘The government says ‘look at Brexit’ as if it’s a bad thing when the people have their say. This could have been a beautiful moment but it feels very flat.’
Since the decision by Mauritius to become a republic, three other nations have held votes on the subject – Australia in 1999, the Pacific state of Tuvalu in 2008 and Barbados’s Caribbean neighbour St Vincent & the Grenadines in 2009.
On each occasion, despite pressure from politicians, the people opted to keep the Queen as head of state.
Despite the decision by Ms Mottley to make Barbados a republic, it will remain a key part of the Commonwealth, which is headed by the Queen.
Barbados: The country’s colonial history
Barbados was one of the oldest English settlements in the West Indies, being surpassed only by Saint Kitts.
The countries’ historical ties date back to the 17th century and involve settlement, post-colonialism and modern bilateral relations.
Since Barbados gained its independence in 1966, the nations have continued to share ties through the Commonwealth, with the Queen as Monarch.
The Barbadian Parliament is the third oldest in the entire Commonwealth and the island continues to practice the Westminster style of government.
Many of the historic Anglican churches and plantation houses across the island show the influence of English architecture.
In 1627, 80 Englishmen aboard the William and John landed on the Caribbean island and founded Jamestown (close to today’s Holetown), in the name of King James I.
The early settlers struggled to develop a profitable export crop and faced difficulties in maintaining supplies from Europe.
However, the Sugar Revolution, the introduction of sugar cane from Dutch Brazil, in the 1640s was highly lucrative and over the next decade more than two thirds of English emigres to the Americas went to Barbados.
The Sugar Revolution, the introduction of sugar cane from Dutch Brazil, in the 1640s was highly lucrative but came at great social cost
But while this shift to sugar yielded huge profits, it came at a great social cost. Thousands of West African slaves were shipped across the Atlantic to work the plantations and workers suffered from low wages and minimal social services.
It is estimated that between 1627 to 1807, some 387,000 Africans were shipped to the island against their will and the country shifted from having a majority white population to a majority black population.
On 28th August 1833, the British Government passed the Slavery Abolition Act, and slaves across the British empire were granted emancipation.
Barbados remained a British colony until internal autonomy was granted in 1961.
The country became fully independent on November 30, 1966, during a time when the country’s economy was expanding and diversifying.
Since then, the Barbadian Parliament has remained a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, which is modeled on the British Westminster system of government.
In 2008, British exports to Barbados stood at £38 million, making it Britain’s fourth-largest export market in the region.
In recent years a growing number of British nationals have been relocating to Barbados to live, with polls showing that British nationals make up 75–85 per cent of the Barbados second home market.