This Tuesday, Sandra Mason will write a piece of world history on the tiny Caribbean island of Barbados. One can frame it in a slightly pathetic manner and speak of an epoch-making moment when the 72-year-old lawyer was sworn in as the President of Barbados. Parliament decided that the constitutional monarchy would be turned into a republic. Which means that the previous head of state – Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – has served as the country’s monarch.
Goodbye, Queen of Barbados. “The time has come for us to completely leave behind our colonial past,” Mason says. Ironically, Barbados, long considered “Little England”, seemed to be more British than all other overseas holdings, with the island now being separated from the Queen.
The future president will be aware of the symbolic weight of the move after 55 years of independence. This may prompt other states to remove the monarchy as a remnant of the empire. After all, Elizabeth II – beyond the United Kingdom – is still recognized as the head of state by 15 countries. Australia and Canada are among them, and several smaller countries, such as Barbados, have fewer than 300,000 people.
Three years earlier, Mason had become governor general and thus the Queen’s official representative in Barbados; However, the island is ruled by a prime minister based on the British model. Many residents are grateful for this democratic heritage.
Mason received medals in London, most recently Dame Grand Cross, the female counterpart receiving acclaim. Elizabeth II visited the island five times, maintaining relations, but time could not stabilize her: “The people of Barbados want a head of state from Barbados,” Mason says. And now it is she who gives the republic a confident face.
Mason grew up on a tropical island. He worked as a teacher and for a bank before pursuing a career in the judiciary. She was the first woman to be admitted to the bar in Barbados. She became a family judge in 1978, and was later elevated to the Supreme Court. In her spare time, she loves cricket and plays Scrabble. The fact that she has already represented her country as a diplomat should now help. Because Mason’s new role is — like the Queen — ceremonial.
Barbados has long been eager to re-establish itself as a republic. The fact that they have recently received a boost may also be due to accusations of racism that the Royals are struggling with. When Harry and Meghan publicly expressed concerns within the family about how dark their baby’s skin would be, it stirred sentiments in Barbados as well. Most of the descendants of African slaves live there. The Black Lives Matter movement, which fueled debates about identity and historical heritage, also carried heavy weight. This parallels the 1970s, when the Black Power Movement gained momentum. Nevertheless, the first Caribbean states separated from the queen.
Mason will now represent a country where exploitation and slavery have left deep scars, starting with the Spanish and ending with the British. Now, however, what many consider to be the last, above all else, mental, colonial bond falls: the formal bond with the now 95-year-old queen.
Mason’s swearing-in ceremony will be attended by Prince Charles, who has long been proposed by his mother as the future leader of the Commonwealth. In the club of former colonies, Sandra Mason and the new republic clearly want to stay.
What the Queen thinks about the fact that she will no longer be Queen of Barbados remains a mystery. It was reported from Buckingham Palace that it was “a matter for the government and the people of Barbados”. Strict restraint. But what else should the royal family do?
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