LONDON — The Queen was not there for the Republic.
But the moment finally arrived Thursday, when the tiny twin island of Barbados became a republic.
The flag was raised, the new flag came down, and all that remained was to bring the Queen and her 96-year-old husband on stage for a very well-wisher to shake hands and declare, “We have had a good ride.”
Barbados had waited 76 years, since independence from Britain in 1966, and the celebrations in London and the Caribbean left people alive in Barbados buzzing.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley rode up the Champs de Mars, the parc d’horizon park, in an open jeep and waved a massive red-and-black Caribbean flag from the top. Then, the results of the plebiscite on the future of the island began to roll on the screen behind her. A third of the way through, 75 percent of voters supported leaving the Commonwealth. But the final result of the referendum was 69 percent in favor.
So we are . . . constitutional monarchy. . .
That’s what the Queen said after she was photographed shaking hands with Mottley.
Mottley, who was busy telling all in the crowd that she would call the Commonwealth “emancipatory,” declared: “We are truly independent, finally,” adding: “We now move on to the next chapter in our history.”
The BBC reported that from her grave, she would surely be smiling.
Along with declining taxes and a new relationship with the United Kingdom, Barbados gained title of the Antigua and Barbuda Free Trade Zone.
In the champagne corks are popped, and the lone old woman dead set against independence breaks out in a smile, as the Iron Throne is unveiled. And so, the party begins. #BarbadosIsNowLegit🇸🇦 pic.twitter.com/w3u2Bw5w8z — BigBoy🇵🇹 (@sushanto1017) November 23, 2017
Sevastian Cabral, the business president of the island, said Barbados was keen to be a recognized trading nation on the islands of the Caribbean. “We are a small economy — how can we compete with the big fish? We won’t survive alone in the medium-to-long term without access to free trade zones,” he said.
Last week, Canada played host to an even more lavish, full-fledged, Caribbean regatta on Lake Ontario. Barbados is just across the state border and just a ferry ride away from Canada, but the island refused to participate. Some of those skipping the celebration were due to be honored by the island. The celebration would have been bittersweet for them.
There were concessions to the British crown. Barbados, a so-called close English ally of Britain, would not assume its full title, Antigua and Barbuda.
And the past 55 years have been rather boring, so the island’s economic minister declared: “Today we have largely lived on idle pastimes. We would like to do more important things.”