Queen speaks of continuing friendship as Barbados removes her as head of state and becomes a republic

The Queen has sent the people of Barbados her “good wishes for your happiness, peace and prosperity in the future” and emphasised the importance of the “continuation of the friendship” with the UK as they remove her as their monarch.

At midnight in Barbados the country will become a republic, ending almost 400 years of the British royal family being head of state to the island known by some as “Little England”.

In a message to the new President, Dame Sandra Mason and all Barbadians, the Queen has written: “On this significant occasion and your assumption of office as the first President of Barbados, I extend my congratulations to you and all Barbadians.

“I first visited your beautiful country on the eve of independence in early 1966, and I am very pleased that my son is with you today. Since then, the people of Barbados have held a special place in my heart; it is a country rightfully proud of its vibrant culture, its sporting prowess, and its natural beauty, that attracts visitors from all over the world, including many people from the United Kingdom.”

Stressing the continuing ties between the two countries, the Queen added: “Over the years, our countries have enjoyed a partnership based on common values, shared prosperity, and close collaboration on a wide range of issues, including recent work on climate change.

“It is also a source of great satisfaction that Barbados remains an active participant within the Commonwealth, and I look forward to the continuation of the friendship between our two countries and peoples.”

Prince Charles has been invited to attend the transition ceremony at National Heroes Square in Bridgetown, where just after midnight the Queen’s standard will lowered for the final time and the President will be installed as the new head of state.

Prince Charles is also due to deliver a speech in which he will stress the importance of the “myriad of connections” that remain between the UK and Barbados with the Caribbean island also remaining a member of the Commonwealth.

He is also expected to allude to the country’s colonial past and the tens of thousands of enslaved Africans who were brought there to work on the sugar plantations.

Scott Furssedonn-Wood, the UK’S High Commissioner to Barbados, who was formally deputy Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales told Sky News: “The prince has made his own feelings on these difficult issues of the past very clear over the years.

“When we were in Ghana a number of years ago he spoke about the appalling atrocity of the slave trade being a stain on our history and he’ll repeat that sentiment here this evening as an acknowledgment of the very difficult aspects of the past.

“He’s quite right that those aspects are acknowledged. We must be clear that we feel deep sorrow for those injustices of the past and that people continue to feel that pain to this day, so it’s quite right that he’s here that he makes that point.

“But he also demonstrates that for the future he’s committed to being by Barbados’s side, creating opportunity for young people, helping in what way he can them to address some of the challenges which they are facing.”

Suleiman Bulbulia, former member of the Republican Status Transition Advisory Committee will be one of those allowed into the Square to mark the moment.

Talking about the “momentous occasion” he said: “This is our 55th anniversary of independence, but now we are taking the next step in that journey, and that’s the step to become a republic.

“So we are basically cutting the umbilical cord that ties us to the United Kingdom, and we’re moving forward on a journey that will bring us to ourselves. Bring us up to rule ourselves, you know, and we are looking forward to it with great enthusiasm.”

He added that recent international debates about racism and discrimination had spurred on the desire of many for greater independence: “I think that the younger generation is asking questions. I think, for example, the Black Lives movement last year really propelled us a lot more. And if we look to my right you would have had Nelson’s statue standing there.

“He’s no longer there. He was there for over 200 years. And that propelled that kind of movement to say, let us get rid of the vestiges of our colonial past, and let’s move forward with confidence. Barbados has the ability to stand on its own and we have proved that for over 50 years.”

This will be the first time in nearly 30 years since a Commonwealth realm removed the Queen as head of state, the last was Mauritius in 1992.

It will mean the 95 year old will remain monarch of 15 realms including the United Kingdom.

The Barbados government confirmed late on Monday that the singer Rihanna, a proud Barbadian, would also be attending the transition event.

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