Barbados elects 72-year-old Dame as its first ever president as country prepares to become republic


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. 

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. 

The Sugar Revolution, the introduction of sugar cane from Dutch Brazil, in the 1640s was highly lucrative but came at great social cost 

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. 

The Barbadian Parliament then became a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, which is modeled on the British Westminster system of government.  

The Queen and Prince Philip driving through Barbados waving to the crowds in February 1966 

In 1998, a Barbados constitutional review commission recommended republican status. 

The Caribbean state took a step away from the UK in 2003 when it replaced 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, then-Prime Minister Owen Arthur made a bid for a referendum on republican status but the vote was called off due to concerns raised by the Electoral and Boundaries Commission. 

In 2015 then-Prime Minister Freundel Stuart pushed harder for the move to a republic. He said: ‘we have to move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in the very near future’.

Dame Sandra Mason announced Barbados would remove the Queen as head of state and become a republic in September 2021. 

Reading a speech written by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, (pictured) Dame Sandra said: ‘The time has come to leave our colonial past behind’

Reading a speech written by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Dame Sandra said: ‘The time has come to leave our colonial past behind. Barbadians want a Barbadian Head of State.’

A deadline of November 2021 – coinciding with the country’s 55th anniversary of Barbados’ independence from Britain – was set for achieving republican status. 

Buckingham Palace said at the time that Barbados’ intention to remove the Queen as head of state and become a republic is a ‘matter’ for the Caribbean nation. 

The Caribbean island nation will officially become a republic when Dame Sandra Mason is inaugurated as President on November 30. 



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