Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.
Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.
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Prince Charles, the next in line to the U.K. throne, was warmly greeted at the ceremony, though some Barbadians are pushing for compensation from the U.K. for the enslavement of about 600,000 Africans on the island who earned British plantation owners fortunes from 1627 to 1833, Reuters notes.
Context: In 1966, Barbados became an independent sovereign state within the Commonwealth, a political association of former territories of the British Empire and current U.K. dependencies that retain Britain's monarch as head of state.
Other Commonwealth nations include Canada and Australia.
Barbados will remain a republic within the Commonwealth.
What they're saying: The U.K. queen released a message extending her "warmest good wishes" to Barbadians for their "happiness, peace and prosperity in the future."
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