What is a republic? Why Barbados has removed Queen Elizabeth as head of state, and is it still in Commonwealth

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Singer Rihanna was made a ‘national hero’ at the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony

Barbados has removed Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state, and has become a republic.

The Queen had been the Caribbean island’s head of state since it became independent in 1966, however the issue of becoming a republic has been discussed for decades.

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Prime minister Mia Mottley announced the historic move to transition the country into a republic last year.

The Prince of Wales and singer Rihanna - who is rumoured to be pregnant - attended a ceremony marking Barbados’s transition, during which Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the first president of the island.

Prince Charles gave a speech in which he acknowledged’s Britain’s role in the “appalling atrocity of slavery”.

Meanwhile, Rihanna was awarded a surprise national honour from Ms Mia Mottley, who recommended the celebrity be made a member of the Order of National Heroes.

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During the ceremony, the culture, history and achievements of Barbados were celebrated with music and dance and a number of poets and activists criticised the island’s colonial past, and called for Barbados to embrace the opportunities of becoming a republic.

But what is a republic, and is Barbados still in the Commonwealth? This is what you need to know.

What is a republic?

Most of the members of the Commonwealth of Nations are republics.

This means that they are sovereign states run by governments where the power is held by the people and elected representatives.

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These countries tend to either be run by democracy or a mixture of democracy with oligarchy or autocracy.

Modern republics have no monarch or head of state, and the country is considered a public matter rather than being the property of a ruler.

Where is the Queen head of state?

The Queen has 15 Commonwealth realms throughout the world, where she is head of state.

These are the Caribbean countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St Vincent, as well as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and the UK.

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All of these countries are members of the Commonwealth of Nations, an organisation of 54 independent member states, almost all of which were previously part of the British Empire.

These countries all have their own governments, but Queen Elizabeth II is their monarch.

Meanwhile, 34 other members of the Commonwealth of Nations are republics and five have different monarchs.

Is Barbados still part of the Commonwealth of Nations?

The Prince of Wales acknowledged Britain’s role in the “appalling atrocity of slavery” at the Barbados ceremony. (PA)The Prince of Wales acknowledged Britain’s role in the “appalling atrocity of slavery” at the Barbados ceremony. (PA)
The Prince of Wales acknowledged Britain’s role in the “appalling atrocity of slavery” at the Barbados ceremony. (PA) | PA

Barbados will remain within the Commonwealth, despite becoming a republic.

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This means the island will still be part of a mutually supportive community of states.

Member countries are supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat, which was established in 1965 to help Commonwealth nations achieve development, democracy and peace.

What is the history of Barbados?

Prime minister Mia Mottley has described the transition of Barbados to a republic as “seminal moment”.

The island was one of England’s first slave colonies after settlers began occupying it in 1627.

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Under British control it became a sugar plantation powered by African slaves.

Speaking at the ceremony, Prince Charles acknowledged the “appalling atrocity of slavery”, describing it as something “which forever stains our history”.

In 1834, slavery was abolished in Barbados and the country became independent from Britain in 1966.

The ceremony marking its historic transition took place on the country’s 55th anniversary of independence.

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Where is Barbados?

Barbados is an island in the eastern Caribbean, and has a population of around 285,000.

One of the most prosperous islands in the Caribbean region, its economy has diversified a lot since its sugar plantation days.

Tourism is an important pillar of the economy, and the country’s capital city Bridgetown is home to a busy cruise ship port.

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