In a speech to party supporters, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart of the Democratic Labour Party, has announced that the country will "move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in the very near future". Legislation to transform the Kingdom of Barbados into a republic will be put to Parliament to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Barbados's independence next year and will, according to the Democratic Labour Party's Secretary General George Pilgrim (quoted in The Times today) "move the country through to the next major step in the process of nationhood". Pilgrim does not "expect any opposition" to the change.
Barbados is currently one of fifteen countries of which the British monarch is head of state, the others including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but the Queen of Barbados has only visited five times and has not set foot in the country for 26 years. Her youngest son, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and his wife Sophie did however visit Barbados a year ago.
Like many other countries who have removed the British monarch from the position of head of state, Bahamas intends to remain a member of the Commonwealth. It is interesting to note that Prime Minister Stuart said that they "respect [Queen Elizabeth] very highly as head of the Commonwealth and accept that she and all of her successors will continue to be at the apex of our political understanding". These words are interesting as the headship of the Commonwealth is not hereditary; thus Prince Charles will not automatically become its head when Queen Elizabeth dies.