Barbados pays tribute to Queen Elizabeth’s birthday

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Emotional fans turned out in the town

Blessings for Barbados’s new republic as people turned out for a traditional custom of paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth’s birthday.

The people of St George will sing the anthem at the Queen’s 92nd birthday celebrations on Saturday, to mark her attendance at the event.

The Queen has not been to Barbados in nine years because of its contentious presidency.

Barbados became a republic in July 2016, but has no parliament and relies on the Queen for political and economic advice.

‘A signal’

Mrs Elizabeth visited Barbados in 1975.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The ceremony in Barbados was reminiscent of the Queen’s 1953 visit

But, after a dispute between former president and future prime minister Forbes Burnham, the Queen did not visit the island again until 2001.

Her husband, Prince Philip, paid a short visit in October 2012.

This time, as in 2012, the Queen travelled to the Parliament building in the capital Bridgetown for the symbolic tribute to mark her birthday.

Baptist minister Gyde Wright chaired the ritual as part of the Royal Family’s contribution to international events.

Mr Wright, a local resident who was the country’s then-leader of state in 1998, said the ritual had become customary “of late”.

“We know that the Queen is the head of our nation; and we should certainly make a token of gratitude,” he said.

“The most fitting way of doing that would be to sing this song.”

The ceremony was similarly stony silence when Mrs Elizabeth turned to look.

The Archbishop of Barbados, the Most Reverend Desmond Trotman, read out his praises of Mrs Elizabeth and the UK.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Royal watchers had good reason to be in a sombre mood as Her Majesty was last in Barbados nine years ago

Mr Trotman told parliament he planned to give the monarch “a grand welcome”.

Barbados’s Reverend Cecil Dawson was the Chief Boy Scout leader during Princess Elizabeth’s visit in 1955.

His comments also reflected how little the island had to offer the public two decades after her visit.

“We don’t need royalty to go to Barbados. It’s sad to see that,” he said.

However, he said Barbados had “become a stronger nation” over the years, since 1986 when it adopted its modern constitution.

He paid tribute to the Queen for her “support, guidance and advice” when it came to democratic governance and said she was “a strong mentor and role model”.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Queen and her husband Prince Philip travelled to the Parliament building in Bridgetown for the ritual on Friday

A senior church official and close friend of Barbados’s last president, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, Reverend Dawson told members of the British-ruled Caribbean nation to “send thank you cards”.

“It’s a symbol of how we build a nation – without the benefit of a parliament to parliament we’re still building it,” he said.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Dr Bharrat Jagdeo wished the Queen “a happy 92nd birthday”

Rev Dawson also hoped the introduction of a direct colony to the former British Empire would soon be seen as a positive chapter in Barbados’s history.

He told BBC Barbados that the open Caribbean is “hot in terms of tourism because people are looking for something different”.

“People used to come here [in the 1970s and 80s] to party, but they’re not coming here for that any more. They’re coming here to live and you have to live a certain way,” he said.

Mr Jagdeo was the island’s last president before its majority opposition cut it loose from the Commonwealth.

After legislative and constitutional changes in 2016, the island won independence from Britain in 1973.

Barbados was granted full political independence from Britain, but will remain a part of the Commonwealth, in which it has the power to veto British decisions.

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