Barbados celebrates the birth of a republic Monday — a day that has never before marked the departure of a reigning monarch in the Commonwealth.
Queen Elizabeth, 87, arrived last night at the Castello di Hove, where members of her family will stay over the celebration.
“This is going to be an occasion, and we all look forward to it, I do, really,” Prime Minister Mia Mottley told The Voice. “I think the Commonwealth, and especially Barbados, has really benefited from the Queen’s long rule. And every now and then there is a period where we can properly mark the fact that the Queen has now reached the end of her reign.”
Barbados, which held its first elections in 1966, announced plans to hold a republican referendum this year. A recent poll showed that Barbadians overwhelmingly back the idea of a vote.
From the original tip of South America and founded by a Barbadian immigrant, Britain made Barbados part of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Still a minnow in international diplomacy, Barbados won its independence in 1965.
The national commemoration of the birth of a republic is held every 30 years. Queen Elizabeth, or her predecessor, has represented Barbados on its behalf since 1947.
Rosa Montefiore, 78, said the departure of a reigning monarch holds an “added novelty” that she hopes will galvanize Barbados’ independence celebrations.
“We would not have this opportunity at least for another 40 years, and I don’t want to let the opportunity slip away,” Montefiore said.
Jamilah Johnson, 66, who is attending the celebrations with her husband and two grandchildren, said, “It was a man who brought this country independence and Barbados is always going to be proud of that. But now we know that man is going to go and we can say we are the same as Barbados. We did it once and now we can do it again.”
Her daughter, 36-year-old Amanda Johnson, agreed.
“It’s a big deal for Barbados, so it’s all over the news,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be exciting to witness the Queen passing on. Her Majesty has been a very good queen. In fact, she has never once behaved or behaved wrongly.”
To view the scorecard of Queen Elizabeth II’s official visits to Barbados, click here.
Royal observers say the birthday of the republic is the end of an era.
“As an ally of the United Kingdom, [Barbados] has never accepted a throne which excludes a major English-speaking Commonwealth nation like itself,” monarchist Sam O’Kelly said. “It’s time to turn the page and accept an equal claim to the English-speaking Caribbean and a permanent recognition of Barbados’ sovereignty.”
If Barbados votes to become a republic in November, an independent nation can become a member of the Commonwealth of Nations until the end of the Queen’s reign in 2064.