Barbados declared itself the world’s newest republic on Tuesday, officially severing ties with Queen Elizabeth II and the British royal family.
At a midnight ceremony in its capital, Bridgetown, the Caribbean island nation appointed Dame Sandra Mason as its new president and head of state. Mason had previously served as the governor-general, Elizabeth’s official representative in the country.
“The Republic of Barbados has set sail on her maiden voyage,” Mason speak after taking the oath of office. “May she weather all storms and land safely on our country and our citizens on the horizons and shores ahead of us.”
Barbados announced plans to become a republic last year, ending nearly 400 years of British presence in the country.
It has been an independent country since 1966, but the queen has served as the official head of state, as she does for Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Jamaica, among others.
Her eldest son, Prince Charles, attended the ceremony, which saw the British monarch’s standard flag lowered and then replaced.
Charles was awarded the Barbados Medal of Freedom, telling the new country that his mother had wished them well.
He also spoke out against the British colonial history of slavery in the country, which was once one of Britain’s original colonies for enslaved people.
Charles said in his speech.
“Tonight you write the next chapter of your country’s story,” said the prince.
After taking the oath of allegiance to the new president, Prime Minister Mia Mottley ensured that one of the new republic’s first official acts was to honor one of their most famous native daughters: the singer. Rihanna.
Music superstar who has become an ambassador in 2018 and attended Tuesday’s ceremony, declared a national hero for “commanding the world’s imagination through his pursuit of excellence, with his creativity, discipline, and above all, her extraordinary commitment to the land in which she was born.”
“May you continue to shine like a diamond,” said the Prime Minister.