Barbados has officially severed ties with Queen Elizabeth II after 55 years, and one of its first acts as the world’s newest republic was to bestow the title of “national hero” on global superstar Rihanna.
Throughout her illustrious career, the 33-year-old singer has held numerous titles, including award-winning musician, billionaire makeup mogul, actor, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and fashion designer.
And now, the singer, who was born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in the Barbados parish of Saint Michael in 1988, can add “national hero” to her long list of accomplishments.
The honor was bestowed during Monday’s overnight presidential inauguration ceremony in Bridgetown, which marked the island nation’s official removal of Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state, ushering in a new era with the island’s first-ever president, nearly 400 years after Barbados became an English colony. “On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty, the designee for national hero for Barbados,” Prime Minister Mia Mottley said.
“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation through your works, through your actions,” she said, referring to the singer’s hit song “Diamonds.”
Rihanna has been the ambassador for culture and youth in Barbados since 2018, and many people on the island celebrate “Rihanna Day” on February 22.
Calls for the Caribbean island to become a republic grew stronger during the Black Lives Matter movement that swept the world last year. Barbados then declared that it would become a republic on November 20, 2021, the 55th anniversary of its independence. “The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind,” the government declared at the time, while Buckingham Palace stated that the contentious issue would be handled by government officials and Barbadians.
Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, represented the royal family at the ceremony on Monday night. During the event, he stated that slavery was a “appalling atrocity that forever stains our history,” and that “freedom, justice, and self-determination” had helped guide Barbados.
Britain dominated the transatlantic slave trade, with English settlers profiting from the island by converting it into a sugar colony with hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans forced to labor.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of people requesting reparations for slavery on the island. The queen sent a message of congratulations to the country’s new president, Sandra Mason, who was sworn in alongside the people of Barbados at midnight on Tuesday, calling the occasion a “momentous day.”
“I first visited your beautiful country on the eve of independence in early 1966, and I am very pleased that my son is with you today,” the monarch said, adding that Barbadians have “held a special place in my heart” for a long time.
The queen also expressed her desire for the two countries to remain friends.
Now that the 95-year-old monarch has been deposed as head of state, the country’s prison will no longer be referred to as “Her Majesty’s,” and officials, including police and military personnel, will no longer swear allegiance to the queen.
With Barbados’ decision now set in stone, some speculated on whether other Caribbean countries where the queen still reigned would follow suit. Jamaica’s opposition leader has suggested that the country follow Barbados’ lead. Jamaica also announced in July that it would seek compensation from the United Kingdom for its role in the slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries, when an estimated 600,000 Africans were shipped to the Caribbean as enslaved people.