The monarchy of Barbados was a system of government in which a hereditary monarch was the sovereign and head of state of Barbados. Barbados shared the Sovereign with the other Commonwealth realms, with the country's monarchy being separate and legally distinct. The Barbadian monarch's operational and ceremonial duties were mostly delegated to her representative, the Governor-General of Barbados.
|Queen of Barbados|
|First monarch||Elizabeth II|
|Last monarch||Elizabeth II|
|Formation||30 November 1966|
|Abolition||30 November 2021|
The Barbadian monarchy was created by the Barbados Independence Act 1966, which transformed the Colony of Barbados into the independent sovereign state of Barbados of today. The only Barbadian monarch to reign from the independence of Barbados to the monarchy's abolition was Queen Elizabeth II. As a result, the monarch was officially titled Queen of Barbados and, in this capacity, she and other members of the Barbadian Royal Family undertook public and private functions domestically and abroad as representatives of the Barbadian state. The Crown primarily functioned as a guarantor of continuous and stable governance and a nonpartisan safeguard against the abuse of power.
In September 2020, the government of Barbados announced that it planned to remove the Queen as head of state by the end of November 2021. The Barbadian monarchy was abolished on 30 November 2021, when Barbados became a republic within the Commonwealth with the president of Barbados as its head of state.
The Barbadian monarchy can trace its origins to Barbados' history as a colony first of England and then as part of the British Empire. Barbados was claimed under King James I of England in 1625, though not colonised until 1627, when, in the name of King Charles I, Governor Charles Wolferstone established the first settlement on the island. By the 18th century, Barbados became one of the main seats of British authority in the British West Indies, though, due to the economic burden of duties and trade restrictions, some Barbadians, including the Clerk of the General Assembly, attempted to declare in 1727 that the Act of Settlement 1701 had expired in the colony, since the Governor, Henry Worsley, had not received a new commission from King George II upon his accession to the throne. Thus, they refused to pay their taxes to a governor they recognised as having no authority. The Attorney and Solicitor General of Great Britain confirmed that Worsley was entitled to collect the dues owed, but, Worsley resigned his post before the directive arrived in Barbados.
After attempting in 1958 a federation with other West Indian colonies, Barbados continued as a self-governing colony under the Colonial Office, until independence came with the signing of the Barbados Independence Order in 1966 by Queen Elizabeth II. The Barbados Independence Act 1966 made the Colony of Barbados into an independent sovereign state with a constitutional monarchy.
The Queen's cousin, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, represented her at the independence celebrations. On Independence Day, He opened the second session of the first parliament, on behalf of the Queen.
The Barbadian Crown and its aspects
The Barbadian sovereign was equally shared with other monarchies in the Commonwealth of Nations, with the monarch's relationship with Barbados completely independent from her position as monarch of any other realm. The Barbadian monarch was represented by a viceroy—the Governor-General of Barbados—in the Barbadian realm.
Since Barbadian independence in 1966, the pan-national Crown had both a shared and a separate character and the sovereign's role as monarch of Barbados was distinct to his or her position as monarch of any other realm, including the United Kingdom.[n 1] Only Barbadian ministers of the Crown could advise the sovereign on matters of the Barbadian state. The monarchy thus ceased to be an exclusively British institution and in Barbados became a Barbadian, or "domesticated" establishment.
This division was illustrated in a number of ways: The sovereign, for example, held a unique Barbadian title and, when she was acting in public specifically as a representative of Barbados, she used, where possible, Barbadian symbols, including the country's national flag, unique royal symbols, and the like.
A claim made by supporters of the monarchy was that it "keeps the line of stability open"; the sovereign's usual location outside the country meant legitimate executive power would be unaffected by any hostile invasion of Barbados or other event that rendered the entire sitting government incapacitated or unable to function. Such a situation did not arise; however, it may have helped if the Operation Red Dog-invasion plot, which targeted the Commonwealth of Dominica and likely Barbados, was not halted.[n 2]
Personification of the state
Barbados would, forever, be indebted to Her Majesty for providing that powerful and necessary symbol of continuity and assurance by remaining as the Head of State.
The Barbadian sovereign was regarded as the personification, or legal personality, of the Barbadian state. Therefore, the state was referred to as Her Majesty in Right of Barbados. The monarch, her position as sovereign, and not as an individual, was thus the owner of all state lands (called Crown land), buildings and equipment (called Crown held property), as well as the copyright for all literary and artistic works (called Crown copyright). Government staff (the Civil Service) were also employed by the monarch or the governor-general, as are Supreme Court judges, members of the Barbados Defence Force, police officers, and senators.
As the embodiment of the Barbadian state, the monarch was the locus of oaths of Allegiance, required of many employees of the Crown, as well as by new citizens, as per the Oath of Citizenship laid out in the Barbados Citizenship Act. This was done in reciprocation to the sovereign's Coronation Oath, wherein she promises to govern the peoples of her realms, "according to their respective laws and customs".
Oath of allegiance
The oath of allegiance in Barbados was:
Constitutional role and royal prerogative
Barbados' constitution of 1966 gave the country a similar parliamentary system of government to the other Commonwealth realms, wherein the role of the monarch and governor-general was both legal and practical, but not political. The Crown was regarded as a corporation, in which several parts shared the authority of the whole, with the sovereign as the person at the centre of the constitutional construct, meaning all powers of state were constitutionally reposed in the Barbadian monarch. The constitution required most of the Queen's domestic duties to be performed by the governor-general, appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister of Barbados.
All institutions of government acted under the sovereign's authority; the vast powers that belong to the Barbadian Crown were collectively known as the Royal Prerogative. Parliamentary approval was not required for the exercise of the Royal Prerogative; moreover, the consent of the Crown was must before either of the houses of parliament may even debate a bill affecting the sovereign's prerogatives or interests.
The government of Barbados was also thus formally referred to as Her Majesty's Government. Further, the constitution instructed that any change to the position of the monarch, or the monarch's representative in Barbados, required the consent of two-thirds of all the members of each house of parliament.
One of the main duties of the Crown was to appoint a prime minister, who thereafter headed the Cabinet and advised the monarch or governor-general on how to execute their executive powers over all aspects of government operations and foreign affairs. The monarch's, and thereby the viceroy's role was almost entirely symbolic and cultural, acting as a symbol of the legal authority under which all governments and agencies operate, while the Cabinet directed the use of the Royal Prerogative, which included the privilege to declare war, maintain the Queen's peace, and direct the actions of the Barbados Defence Force, as well as to summon and prorogue parliament and call elections. However, it is important to note that the Royal Prerogative belonged to the Crown and not to any of the ministers, though it might have sometimes appeared that way, and the constitution allows the governor-general to unilaterally use these powers in relation to the dismissal of a prime minister, dissolution of parliament, and removal of a judge in exceptional, constitutional crisis situations.
The governor-general, to maintain the stability of government, appointed as prime minister the individual most likely to maintain the support of the House of Assembly. The governor-general additionally appointed a Cabinet, at the direction of the prime minister, at least five other ministers of the Crown. The Queen was informed by her viceroy of the acceptance of the resignation of a prime minister and the swearing-in of a new prime minister and other members of the ministry, she remained fully briefed through regular communications from her Barbadian ministers, and she held regular audiences with them whenever possible. Members of various executive agencies and other officials are appointed by the Crown. The appointment of privy councillors, senators, and Supreme Court justices also falls under the Royal Prerogative.
The Royal Prerogative further extended to foreign affairs: the governor-general ratified treaties, alliances, and international agreements. As with other uses of the Royal Prerogative, no parliamentary approval was required. However, a treaty couldn't alter the domestic laws of Barbados; an Act of Parliament was necessary in such cases. The governor-general, on behalf of the Queen, also accredited Barbadian High Commissioners and ambassadors and received diplomats from foreign states. In addition, the issuance of passports fell under the Royal Prerogative and, as such, all Barbadian passports were issued in the governor-general's name, the monarch's representative in Barbados.
The sovereign, along with the Senate and the House of Assembly, was one of the three components of the Barbadian parliament. The authority of the Crown therein was embodied in the mace, which bore a crown at its apex; unlike other realms, however, the Barbados parliament only had a mace for the lower house.
The monarch did not, however, participate in the legislative process; the viceroy did, though only in the granting of Royal Assent. Further, the constitution outlined that the governor-general alone was responsible for appointing senators. Similarly to other Caribbean states such as Jamaica, Belize, and Trinidad and Tobago, the viceroy must make twelve senatorial appointments on the advice of the prime minister, two on the advice of leader of the opposition and seven at his own discretion. The viceroy additionally summoned, prorogued, and dissolved parliament; after the latter, the writs for a general election were usually dropped by the governor-general at Government House.
The new parliamentary session was marked by the State Opening of Parliament, during which the monarch or the governor-general read the Speech from the Throne. As the monarch and the viceroy couldn't enter the House of Assembly, this, as well as the bestowing of Royal Assent, took place in the Senate chamber; Members of Parliament were summoned to these ceremonies from the Commons by the Crown's messenger, the Usher of the Black Rod, after he knocked on the doors of the lower house that were slammed closed on him, to symbolise the barring of the monarch from the assembly.
All laws in Barbados were enacted only with the viceroy's granting of Royal Assent in the monarch's name. Thus, bills began with the phrase: "Be it enacted by the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Assembly of Barbados and by the authority of the same as follows".
Within the Commonwealth realms, the sovereign is responsible for rendering justice for all her subjects, and is thus traditionally deemed the fount of justice. In Barbados, criminal offences were legally deemed to be offences against the sovereign and proceedings for indictable offences are brought in the sovereign's name in the form of The Queen versus [Name]. Hence, the common law held that the sovereign "can do no wrong"; the monarch cannot be prosecuted in his or her own courts for criminal offences.
The Barbadian monarch, and by extension the governor-general, on the advice of the Barbadian Cabinet, could also grant immunity from prosecution, exercise the royal prerogative of mercy, and pardon offences against the Crown, either before, during, or after a trial. The exercise of the 'Prerogative of mercy' to grant a pardon and the commutation of prison sentences is described in section 78 of the 1966 Constitution.
All Barbadian judges had to swear that they would "well and truly serve" the monarch of Barbados, on taking office. Under the Constitution, the Judicial Oath was:
"I, (name), do swear that I will well and truly serve Our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth II, Her Heirs and Successors, in the office of the Chief Justice/Justice of Appeal/Judge of the High Court and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of Barbados without fear or favour, affection or ill will. So help me God."
However, the monarch did not personally rule in judicial cases; instead, judicial functions were performed in her name. In international cases, as a sovereign and under established principles of international law, the Queen of Barbados was not subject to suit in foreign courts without her express consent. In addition, the monarch also served as a symbol of the legitimacy of courts of justice and of their judicial authority. An image of the Queen or the Coat of arms of Barbados was always displayed in Barbadian courtrooms. Judges also had a pair of white gloves from the Queen on display on the edge of the bench, which marked the authority of the court, similar to the ceremonial mace of parliament.
Any attempt to kill the monarch or the governor-general was considered "high treason", and the person guilty of the offence was sentenced to death.
The full Barbadian title of Elizabeth II was: "Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Barbados and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth".
This style reflected Barbados's status as an independent monarchy, highlighting the monarch's role specifically as Queen of Barbados, as well as the shared aspect of the Crown throughout the Commonwealth realms. Typically, the sovereign was styled "Queen of Barbados", and was addressed as such when in Barbados, or performing duties on behalf of Barbados abroad.
By convention, succession in Barbados was deferred to the laws of the United Kingdom; whoever was monarch of Britain was automatically also the monarch of Barbados. Succession in Britain is, for those born before 28 October 2011, by male-preference primogeniture and, for people born after 28 October 2011, by absolute primogeniture, governed by common law, the Act of Settlement 1701, Bill of Rights 1689, and Succession to the Crown Act 2013.
Though these laws still lie within the control of the British parliament, the United Kingdom agreed, via adopting the Statute of Westminster, not to change the rules of succession without the unanimous consent of the other realms, unless explicitly leaving the shared monarchy relationship. This situation that applies symmetrically in all the other realms and has been likened to a treaty among these countries.[n 3] Barbados last indicated its consent to alteration to the line of succession in 2015, when the Governor-General-in-Council brought into force the Succession to the Throne Act, 2013, which signified the legislature's acquiescence to the British Succession to the Crown Bill 2013.
The Crown and Honours
Within the Commonwealth realms, the monarch is deemed the fount of honour. Similarly, the monarch, as Sovereign of Barbados, conferred awards and honours in Barbados in her name. Most of them were often awarded on the advice of "Her Majesty's Barbados Ministers".
The Barbadian National Honours system was established in 1980 by warrant of the Queen of Barbados under a royal sign manual.
The Crown and the Defence Force
The Crown sat at the pinnacle of the Barbados Defence Force. It was reflected in Barbados's naval vessels, which bore the prefix HMBS, i.e., Her Majesty's Barbadian Ship. The Barbadian Police Force was known as "The Royal Barbados Police Force". The prefix "Royal" was dropped, and its name was changed to "Barbados Police Service", when the Barbadian monarchy was abolished.
Every member of the Royal Barbados Police Force had to swear allegiance to the monarch of Barbados, on taking office. Under the Police Act of Barbados, the oath of office was:
"I, (name), do hereby swear by Almighty God and do hereby solemnly and sincerely affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully serve Her Majesty the Queen, Her Heirs and Successors during my service in the Royal Barbados Police Force; that I will subject myself to all Acts, orders and regulations relating to the said Force now in force or which may from time to time be in force and will discharge all the duties of a police officer according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will."
- Queen's Colour of the Barbados Regiment
The Queen's Colour of the Barbados Regiment was carried only when a guard was mounted by the Queen of Barbados, the Barbadian Royal Family and the Governor General of Barbados. Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood presented the regiment with its first stand of Colours on 23 February 1953. The Queen's Colour was paraded in Trooping the Colour for the first time on 19 February 1975, in the presence of the Queen. It was also trooped on 21 November 1987 to mark the 21st anniversary of Barbadian Independence, and on 4 June 2012 during the parade in honor of the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.
Barbadian royal symbols
From the beginning of Queen Elizabeth II's reign onwards, royal symbols in Barbados were altered to make them distinctly Barbadian or new ones created, such as the Coat of arms of Barbados (presented on 14 February 1966 by the Queen to then President of the Senate Sir Grey Massiah) and the Queen's Royal Standard for Barbados, created in 1975. Second in precedence was the personal flag of the governor-general.
The main symbol of the Barbadian monarchy was the sovereign herself. Thus, framed portraits of her were displayed in public buildings and government offices. A portrait of the Queen also greeted visitors in the immigration queue at the airport in Bridgetown. The Queen also appeared on commemorative Barbadian stamps. A crown was also used to illustrate the monarchy as the locus of authority, appearing on police force, postal workers, prison officers, and Barbados Defence Force regimental and maritime badges and rank insignia, as well as Barbadian honours, the system of such created through Letters Patent issued by Queen Elizabeth II in July 1980.
The flag of the Barbadian Governor-General featuring the St Edward's Crown
- Queen's Personal Barbadian Flag
Elizabeth II had a personal Barbadian standard, in her role as Queen of Barbados. It was first used when the Queen visited Barbados in 1975. The standard consisted of a yellow field with a bearded fig tree, a long-established symbol of the island of Barbados, and the national flower the Pride of Barbados flowers in each of the upper corners. A blue disc of the letter "E" crowned surrounded by a garland of gold roses was displayed prominently on the flag within the centre of the tree.
Barbados and Barbadians hold a special place in Her Majesty's heart. She takes a keen interest in all that you do and is proud of your achievement, in particular, the progress Barbados has made in its 45 years as a sovereign state. Her affection towards you remains strong and constant as the day, 60 years ago, when she acceded to the Throne and pledged to dedicate her life to service of the people of her realms and territories.
In February 1966, the Queen, along with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, toured Barbados, opening Barclays Park, in Saint Andrew, amongst other events. During her 1975 visit, the Queen knighted Barbadian cricketer Garfield Sobers in an open-air investiture before a crowd of 50,000 in Bridgetown. The Queen returned for her Silver Jubilee in 1977, after addressing the new session of parliament, she departed on the Concorde, which was the Queen's first supersonic flight. She also was in Barbados in 1989, to mark the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the Barbados parliament, where she sat to receive addresses from both houses.
In 2010, Prince Harry visited Barbados to launch the first Sentebale Polo Cup, and to raise awareness and funding for Sentebale's work.
To mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the country hosted the Queen's youngest son and his wife, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, between 23 and 24 February 2012. To a joint sitting of the Parliament of Barbados, the Earl read a written message from the Queen, in which the monarch stated she has taken note of the level of development Barbados had achieved during its 45 years of independence and called the country a model small state for others around the world.
The Princess Royal visited in 2015. In 2016, Prince Harry visited Barbados on behalf of the Queen, for Barbados' 50th anniversary of independence celebrations. The Queen shared person congratulations to the people and government of Barbados on reaching 50 years of political independence and touched on her family's fondness of Barbados and witnessing development of nation over that time. In her message, the Queen praised Barbadians and said they "have continued to flourish and grow into a strong and confident nation. The extraordinary talents of your people, from the cricket field to the music industry have been admired and recognised throughout the world".
Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur called for a referendum on becoming a republic to be held in 2005. It was announced on 26 November 2007 that the referendum would be held in 2008, together with the general election. On 2 December 2007, reports emerged that this vote was put off due to concerns raised by the Electoral and Boundaries Commission. Following the election, David Thompson replaced Arthur as prime minister.
On 22 March 2015, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced his intention to move the country towards a republican form of government "in the very near future". The general secretary of the Democratic Labour Party, George Pilgrim, confirmed the move and said that it is expected to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Barbadian independence in 2016. According to the country's constitution, a two-thirds majority in parliament is needed to authorize the change; The Democratic Labour Party had a two-thirds majority in the Senate, but not in the House of Assembly.
|"Do you think it's time to remove the Queen as Barbados' head of state?"|
|Barbados Today, 25 March 2015|
In September 2020, the Barbados Labour Party government of Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced in its Throne Speech that Barbados would become a republic by November 2021, replacing the Queen and Governor-General with a ceremonial Barbadian head of state. The Barbados Labour Party has a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Barbadian parliament.
On 20 September 2021, the Constitution (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2021 was introduced to the Parliament of Barbados. Passed on 6 October, the Bill made the following amendments to the Constitution of Barbados:
- All references in the law of Barbados to Her Majesty the Queen, the Crown, and the Sovereign shall be read and construed as referring to the State;
- All references to the Governor-General shall be read and construed as referring to the President of Barbados;
- All references to "Her Majesty’s dominions" shall be read and construed as a reference to the Commonwealth of Nations.
- Vesting the prerogatives or privileges of the Crown or Sovereign in the State, subject to the Constitution;
- Vesting all the rights and privileges of the Governor-General in the President;
- Vesting all property held by the Crown in the State;
- Electing the first President in a joint sitting of the Parliament of Barbados by the joint nomination of the Prime Minister of Barbados and Leader of the Opposition by 15 October 2021 with the person elected to take office on 30 November 2021;
- Following the end of the first President's term, future presidents will be elected by either a joint nomination of the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition or if there is no joint nomination, a vote of both houses of the Parliament of Barbados where a two-thirds majority is required;
- President to serve a term of four years;
- All the powers of the Governor-General transferred to the President;
- Amending the official oaths of Barbados to remove references to the Queen.
- The title 'Royal' will be removed from all institutions that have it in their name.
- Barristers will no longer be appointed as Queen's Counsel - but most likely will be appointed Senior Counsel.
On 12 October 2021, Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason was jointly nominated by the prime minister and leader of the opposition as candidate for the first president of Barbados, and was subsequently elected by parliament on 20 October.
It is also a source of great satisfaction that Barbados remains an active participant within the Commonwealth, and I look forward to the continuation of the friendship between our two countries and peoples.
On 30 November 2021, the Barbadian monarchy was abolished. Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the first president of the newly-formed Barbadian republic. In a message to Mason, the Queen sent her congratulations and wished Barbadians happiness, peace and prosperity for the future. Invited by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Charles, Prince of Wales, as future head of the Commonwealth, attended the Republic Day events and celebrations in Bridgetown. It was the first time that a member of the royal family attend the transition of a realm to a republic. The Prince was awarded the Order of Freedom of Barbados, and he also undertook some public engagements.
Before 2007, a Commonwealth realm transitioning to a republic had to reapply for membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. As this is no longer the case, Barbados became the first country to remain a member having ceased to be a constitutional monarchy.
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