Barbados has broken up with the queen.
In the early hours on Tuesday, the Caribbean nation celebrated its newfound status as a parliamentary republic by removing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and swearing in its first president, Sandra Mason, on the 55th anniversary of its full independence from Great Britain. Mason, who had previously served as the queen’s representative on the island of 300,000, will continue to oversee ceremonial duties, while Prime Minister Mia Mottley will continue to serve as the head of state.
“We believe that the time has come for us to claim our full destiny,” Mottley said during the ceremony. “It is a woman of the soil to whom this honor is being given.” To mark the end of almost 400 years of British rule, Prince Charles also attended the ceremony in the capital of Bridgetown, acknowledging his kingdom’s abuses in the Americas. “From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.”
Despite the split, Barbados will stay part of the Commonwealth, a voluntary group of 54 countries previously part of the British Empire. Fifteen nations, including Canada and Australia, are still officially headed by Queen Elizabeth II, who did not take the breakup poorly. “I send you and all Barbadians my warmest good wishes for your happiness, peace, and prosperity in the future,” she said in a message to President Mason.
Shortly upon becoming a republic, the leaders at the ceremony got down to business: declaring Rihanna a national hero.
Prime Minister Mottley said the honor was for capturing “the imagination of the world” with her talent and “above all else, her extraordinary commitment to the land of her birth.” She also encouraged Rihanna to “continue to shine bright like a diamond.”