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Prince Charles says slavery is UK’s ‘dark stain’ as Barbados becomes republic

Barbados has severed ties with the British monarchy, replacing Queen Elizabeth II with a new head of state. Prince Charles said he was touched to be invited

Prince Charles attends the transition in Bridgetown, Barbados

Prince Charles has acknowledged the barbaric transatlantic slave trade as Barbados celebrated becoming a republic.

In a major speech, the Prince of Wales recognised Britain’s dark past which “forever stains our history”.

As the Caribbean nation heralded a new dawn at midnight, replacing the Queen as head of state, Charles said he was touched to be invited despite the act of severance with his family.

At National Heroes Square, Charles said: “The creation of this Republic offers a new beginning, but it also marks a point on a continuum – a milestone on the long road you have not only travelled, but which you have built.

“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.”

Dame Sandra Mason arrives at the ceremony before she is sworn in as Barbados’ president
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Getty Images)

The Queen had been Barbados’s head of state since its independence in 1966, but a debate about becoming a republic has followed at national level since.

Supporters said the birth of a republic, exactly 55 years on, unclasps colonial bonds that have been in place since an English ship claimed the tiny, unpopulated island for King James I in 1625.

Barbados received 600,000 enslaved Africans between 1627 and 1833, who worked in the sugar plantations and earned fortunes for the English owners.

A senior palace source said the Prince was honoured to be involved in the handover and wanted to use the opportunity to “further recognise that the profound injustice of the legacy of the slave trade could never be forgotten”.

Charles made similar sentiments on a 2018 visit to Ghana, from where thousands were shipped off to a life of slavery.

Britain had been part of the transatlantic slave trade for over 200 years by the time it was abolished in 1807, although full abolition of slavery did not follow for another generation.

Buckingham Palace had said the issue of republicanism was a matter for the people of Barbados to decide, as well as the other 15 realms where the Queen is head of state.

The Royal Standard is lowered and replaced with Barbados’ flag
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Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror)

Pop star Rihanna attends Monday night’s ceremony
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Image:

Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror)

The Barbadian government’s decision is likely to spur discussion of similar proposals in other former colonies such as Jamaica, Australia and Canada.

Barbadian pop superstar Rihanna was among the leading figures to attend the ceremony.

Service personnel marched past the prince and gave a final salute to the monarchy before the Queen’s standard was lowered and the presidential flag raised. Charles was due to receive the Freedom of Barbados and the Queen wrote a message wishing its people “happiness, peace and prosperity”.

Referring to her first visit to “your beautiful country” in 1966, she said its people have “held a special place in my heart”, adding: “It is a country rightfully proud of its vibrant culture, its sporting prowess and its natural beauty.”

The first president of Barbados is Dame Sandra Mason, the previous governor-general. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK and Barbados will remain “steadfast friends and allies”.

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