Monarchy of Barbados

Monarchy of Barbados
Queen of Barbados
Coat of arms of Barbados.png
Coat of arms of Barbados
Elizabeth II greets NASA GSFC employees, May 8, 2007 edit.jpg
Elizabeth II

Style: Her Majesty
Heir apparent: Charles, Prince of Wales
First monarch: Elizabeth II
Formation: November 30, 1966


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The monarchy of Barbados is a constitutional system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Barbados, forming the core of the country's Westminster style parliamentary democracy.[1][2] The terms Crown in Right of Barbados, Her Majesty in Right of Barbados, or The Queen in Right of Barbados may also be used to refer to the entire executive of the government of Barbados. Though the Barbadian Crown has its roots in the British Crown, it has evolved over the centuries to become a distinctly Barbadian institution, represented by unique symbols.

The present monarch is Elizabeth II – officially titled Queen of Barbados – who has reigned since February 6, 1952. She, her consort, and other members of the Royal Family undertake various public and private functions across Barbados and on behalf of the country abroad. However, the Queen is the only member of the Royal Family with any constitutional role, holding ultimate executive authority, though her Royal Prerogative remains bound by laws enacted by her in parliament and by conventions and precedents, leaving the day-to-day exercise of executive power to her Cabinet. While several powers are the sovereign's alone,[3] most of the royal constitutional and ceremonial duties in Barbados are carried out by the Queen's representative, the Governor-General; as such, the Governor-General can sometimes be referred to as the head of state.[4]

The Barbadian government had planned a referendum on the future of the monarchy in August 2008, however these plans were delayed indefinitely due to electoral concerns and change of government following the 2008 general election.


International and domestic aspects

Barbados, is one the Commonwealth realms, sharing the same person as their respective monarch. Each realm is sovereign and independent of the others,[5] meaning the Barbadian monarchy acts as a separate Kingdom with both a separate and yet shared character, and the monarchy has also thus ceased to be an exclusively British institution, although it has often been called British since this time (in both legal and common language) for reasons historical, political, and of convenience. On all matters of the Barbadian state, the monarch is advised solely by Barbadian Ministers of the Crown,[6] and, effective with the Barbados Independence Order of 1966 and Statute of Westminster (1931)[7], no British or other realm government can advise the monarch on any matters pertinent to Barbados.

Title and style

The shared and domestic aspects of the Crown are also highlighted in the sovereign's Barbadian title, currently Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Barbados and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth. The sovereign's role specifically as Queen of Barbados, as well as her status as monarch of other nations, is communicated by mentioning Barbados separately from, but along with, the Queen's other lands. Typically, the sovereign is styled Queen of Barbados, and is addressed as such when in Barbados or performing duties on behalf of Barbados abroad.


The sovereign only draws from Barbadian coffers for support in the performance of her duties when in Barbados or acting as Queen of Barbados abroad; Barbadians do not pay any money to the Queen, either towards personal income or to support royal residences outside of Barbados. This applies equally to other members of the Royal Family. Normally, tax dollars pay only for the costs associated with the Governor-General in the exercise of the powers of the Crown, including travel, security, residences, offices, ceremonies, and the like.


Succession is by male-preference primogeniture governed by the provisions of the Act of Settlement, 1701, and the Bill of Rights, 1689. This legislation limits the succession to the natural (i.e. non-adopted), legitimate descendants of Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and stipulates that the monarch cannot be a Roman Catholic, nor married to one, and must be in communion with the Church of England upon ascending the throne. Though these constitutional laws, as they apply to Barbados, still lie within the control of the British parliament, via adopting the Statute of Westminster both the United Kingdom and Barbados agreed not to change the rules of succession without the unanimous consent of the other realms, unless explicitly leaving the shared monarchy relationship;[8] a situation that applies symmetrically in all the other realms, and which has been likened to a treaty amongst these countries.[9] Thus, Barbados' line of succession remains identical to that of the United Kingdom.

Charles, Prince of Wales, is the heir apparent to the Barbadian throne.

Upon a demise of the Crown (the death or abdication of a sovereign) it is customary for the accession of the new monarch to be publicly proclaimed by the Governor-General. Regardless of any proclamations, the late sovereign's heir immediately and automatically succeeds, without any need for confirmation or further ceremony; hence arises the phrase "The King is dead. Long live the King!" Following an appropriate period of mourning, the monarch is also crowned in the United Kingdom, though this ritual is not necessary for a sovereign to reign; for example, Edward VIII was never crowned, yet was undoubtedly king during his short time on the throne. All incumbent viceroys, judges, civil servants, legislators, military officers, etc., are not affected by the death of the monarch. After an individual ascends the throne, he or she typically continues to reign until death. Monarchs are not allowed to unilaterally abdicate; the only monarch to abdicate, Edward VIII, did so before Barbados was independent, and, even then, only with the authorization of special Acts of Parliament in the Dominions.

Personification of the state

Since the independence of Barbados, the sovereign's role as monarch of Barbados has been recognised and promoted as separate to his or her position as monarch of the United Kingdom.[6] From the beginning of Queen Elizabeth II's reign onwards, royal symbols in Barbados were altered or new ones created to make them distinctly Barbadian, such as the creation of the Royal Arms of Barbados in 1966 (presented on 14 February that year by the Queen to then President of the Senate Sir Grey Massiah),[10][11] and Queen's Royal Standard for Barbados, created in 1975.[12] Today the sovereign is regarded as the personification, or legal personality, of the Barbadian state. Therefore, the state is referred to as Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Barbados; for example, if a lawsuit is filed against the government, the respondent is formally described as Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Barbados, or simply Regina. As such, the monarch is the owner of all state lands (called Crown land), buildings and equipment (called Crown held property), state owned companies (called Crown Corporations), and the copyright for all government publications (called Crown copyright), as well as guardianship of foster children (called Crown wards), in his or her position as sovereign, and not as an individual. Government staff are also employed by the monarch, as are the Governor-General, judges, members of the Barbados Defence Force, police officers, and parliamentarians, who all technically work for the monarch. Hence, many employees of the Crown are required by law to recite an oath of allegiance to the monarch before taking their posts, in reciprocation to the sovereign's Coronation Oath, wherein he or she promises "to govern the Peoples of ... [Barbados] ... according to their respective laws and customs".[13] The oath required by the Director of Public Prosecutions, for example, is: I, [name], do swear that I will well and truly serve Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Her Heirs and Successors, in the office of Director of Public Prosecutions. So help me God, while that for judges is: 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 Chief Justice/Judge of the Supreme 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.[14]

Constitutional role

A simplified diagram of the Barbados government

Barbados' constitution is made up of a variety of statutes and conventions that are either British or Barbadian in origin, which gives Barbados a similar parliamentary system of government to the other Commonwealth realms, wherein the role of the Queen and the Governor-General is both legal and practical. The Crown is regarded as a corporation, in which several parts share the authority of the whole, with the Queen as the person at the centre of the constitutional construct,[15] meaning all powers of state are constitutionally reposed in the monarch (Section 63 of the Constitution), who is represented by the Governor-General – appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister of Barbados.[16] Most of the Queen's domestic duties are performed by this vice-regal representative.

All institutions of government are said to act under the sovereign's authority; the vast powers that belong to the Crown are collectively known as the Royal Prerogative. Parliamentary approval is not required for the exercise of the Royal Prerogative; moreover, the consent of the Crown must be obtained before either of the houses of parliament may even debate a bill affecting the sovereign's prerogatives or interests. While the Royal Prerogative is extensive, it is not unlimited; for example, the monarch does not have the prerogative to impose and collect new taxes – such an action requires the authorization of an Act of Parliament. The government of Barbados is also thus formally referred to as Her Majesty's Government. Further, the constitution instructs that any change to the position of the monarch, or the monarch's representative in Barbados, requires the consent of two-thirds of the all the members of each house of parliament.[2][17]

Executive (Queen-in-Council)

In Barbados' constitutional system, one of the main duties of the Crown is to appoint a prime minister,[2] who thereafter heads the Cabinet and advises the monarch and Governor-General on how to execute their executive powers over all aspects of government operations and foreign affairs;[2] this requirement is, unlike in other Commonwealth realms where it is a matter of convention, constitutionally enshrined in Barbados.[18] Though the monarch's power is still a part of the executive process – the operation of the Cabinet is technically known as the Queen-in-Council (or Governor-in-Council) – the advice tendered is typically binding. Since the death of Queen Anne in 1714, the last monarch to head the British Cabinet, the monarch reigns but does not rule. This means that the monarch's role, and thereby the viceroys' role, is almost entirely symbolic and cultural, acting as a symbol of the legal authority under which all governments and agencies operate, while the Cabinet directs the use of the Royal Prerogative, which includes 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 belongs to the Crown, and not to any of the ministers, though it may sometimes appear that way,[15] and the royal figures may unilaterally use these powers in exceptional constitutional crisis situations. There are also a few duties which must be specifically performed by, or bills that require assent by, the Queen. These include signing the appointment papers of Governors-General, the confirmation of awards of Barbadian honours, and the approval of any change in her Barbadian title.

In accordance with convention, the monarch or Governor-General, to maintain the stability of government, must appoint as prime minister the individual most likely to maintain the support of the House of Assembly: usually the leader of the political party with a majority in that house, but also when no party or coalition holds a majority (referred to as a minority government situation), or other scenarios in which the Governor-General's judgement about the most suitable candidate for prime minister has to be brought into play. The Governor-General also appointes to Cabinet the other ministers of the Crown, who are, in turn, accountable to the democratically elected House of Assembly, and through it, to the people. The Queen is 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, and she remains fully briefed through regular communications from her Barbadian ministers, and holds audience with them where possible.[6]

Members of various executive agencies, and other officials are appointed by the Crown. The commissioning of privy councillors, senators, the Speaker of the Senate, Supreme Court justices also falls under the Royal Prerogative, though these duties are specifically assigned to the Governor-General by the constitution.[19] Public inquiries are also commissioned by the Crown through a Royal Warrant, and are called Royal Commissions.

Foreign affairs

The Royal Prerogative also extends to foreign affairs: the sovereign or Governor-General negotiates and ratifies treaties, alliances, and international agreements. As with other uses of the Royal Prerogative, no parliamentary approval is required; however, a treaty cannot alter the domestic laws of Barbados; an Act of Parliament is necessary in such cases. The Governor-General, on behalf of the Queen, also accredits Barbadian High Commissioners and ambassadors, and receives diplomats from foreign states. In addition, the issuance of passports falls under the Royal Prerogative, and, as such, all Barbadian passports are issued in the monarch's name.

Parliament (Queen-in-Parliament)

The Parliament of Barbados, in Bridgetown.

The sovereign, along with the Senate and the House of Assembly, is one of the three components of parliament,[20] called the Queen-in-Parliament. The authority of the Crown therein is embodied in the mace, which bears a crown at its apex; unlike other realms, however, the Barbados parliament only has a mace for the lower house.[21] Per the constitution, the monarch does not, however, participate in the legislative process; the viceroy does, though only in the granting of Royal Assent.[22] Further, the constitution outlines that the Governor-General alone is responsible for summoning, proroguing, and dissolving parliament,[23] after which the writs for a general election are usually dropped by the Governor-General at Government House. The new parliamentary session is marked by the State Opening of Parliament, during which either the monarch or the Governor-General reads the Speech from the Throne. As the monarch and viceroy cannot enter the House of Assembly, this, as well as the bestowing of Royal Assent, takes place in the Senate chamber; Members of Parliament are summoned to these ceremonies from the Commons by the Crown's messenger, the Usher of the Black Rod, after he knocks on the doors of the lower house that have been slammed closed on him, to symbolise the barring of the monarch from the assembly.

All laws in Barbados are enacted only with the viceroy's, or sovereign's, granting of Royal Assent; usually done by the Governor-General, with the Public Seal. Thus, all bills begin with the phrase "Her Majesty, by virtue and in exercise of the powers vested in Her by section 5 of the Barbados Independence Act 1966 and of all other powers enabling Her in that behalf, is pleased, by and with the advice of Her Privy Council, to order, and it is hereby ordered, as follows..."[24]

Courts (Queen-on-the-Bench)

The sovereign is deemed the fount of justice, and is responsible for rendering justice for all subjects, known in this role as the Queen on the Bench. However, he or she does not personally rule in judicial cases; instead, judicial functions are performed in his or her name. Hence, the common law holds that the sovereign "can do no wrong"; the monarch cannot be prosecuted in his or her own courts for criminal offences. Civil lawsuits against the Crown in its public capacity (that is, lawsuits against the government) are permitted; however, lawsuits against the monarch personally are not cognizable. In international cases, as a sovereign and under established principles of international law, the Queen of Barbados is not subject to suit in foreign courts without her express consent. The sovereign, and by extension the Governor-General, also exercises the prerogative of mercy,[25] and may pardon offences against the Crown, either before, during, or after a trial. In addition, the monarch also serves as a symbol of the legitimacy of courts of justice, and of their judicial authority. An image of the Queen or the Arms of Her Majesty in Right of Barbados is always displayed in Barbadian courtrooms.

Cultural role


The main symbol of the monarchy is the sovereign herself. Thus, her image appears in portraits in public buildings, and on stamps.[26][27] A crown is also used to illustrate the monarchy as the locus of authority, appearing on police force 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.[11] The Queen's Personal Barbadian Flag is the symbol of the monarch. Second in precedence is the personal flag of the Governor-General.


The current Barbadian monarchy can trace its ancestral lineage back to the Anglo-Saxon period, and ultimately back to the kings of the Angles and the early Scottish kings. The Crown in Barbados has grown over the centuries since the Barbados was claimed under King James VI of Scotland and 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.[28] By the 18th century, Barbados became one of the main seats of British authority in the British West Indies, and then, after attempting in 1958 a federation with other West Indian colonies, similar to that of fellow Commonwealth realms Canada and Australia, continued as a self-governing colony under the Colonial Office, until independence came with the signing of the Barbados Independence Order by Queen Elizabeth II.

In the same year, Elizabeth's cousin, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, opened the second session of the first parliament of the newly established country,[28] before the Queen herself, along with her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, toured Barbados, opening Barclays Park,[29] in Saint Andrew, amongst other events. Elizabeth 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.[28] 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.[6][28]


The former Prime Minister Owen Arthur called for a referendum on becoming a republic to be held in 2005;[30] the referendum had been pushed back to "at least 2006" in order to speed up Barbados' integration into the CARICOM Single Market and Economy; it was assumed the referendum would be held in 2007,[31] but it was announced on 2007-11-26 that the referendum would be held in 2008 together with the general election.[32] On 2 December 2007 reports emerged that this vote was put off due to concerns raised by the Electoral and Boundaries Commission.[33] At the election, David Thompson replaced Arthur as Prime Minister.


See also

Other realms



  1. ^ Caribbean Court of Justice: Barbados
  2. ^ a b c d Commonwealth Secretariat: Barbados: Constitution
  3. ^ Constitution of Barbados: EXECUTIVE POWER (Chapter 6), Section 63. Section 63 of the Constitution says that the executive authority of Barbados shall be vested in Her Majesty the Queen"
  4. ^ The Barbados Parliament: Heads of State
  5. ^ The English Court of Appeal ruled in 1982, while "there is only one person who is the Sovereign within the British Commonwealth ... in matters of law and government the Queen of the United Kingdom, for example, is entirely independent and distinct from the Queen of Canada". R v Foreign Secretary; Ex parte Indian Association, QB 892 at 928; as referenced in High Court of Australia: Sue v Hill [1999] HCA 30; 23 June 1999; S179/1998 and B49/1998
  6. ^ a b c d Buckingham Palace: The Queen and Commonwealth: Other Caribbean Realms
  7. ^ Constitution of Barbados: Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the Individual (Chapter 3), Section 26 (1). Section 26 (1) of the Constitution says, nothing contained in or done under the authority of any written law shall be held to be inconsistent with a specific portion of the Constitution to the extent that the law in question is a law (in this section referred to as "an existing law") that was enacted or made before 30th November 1966 and has continued to be part of the law of Barbados at all times since that day."
  8. ^ Mackinlay, Andrew (2005-10-Mar) "Early day motion 895: MORGANATIC MARRIAGE AND THE STATUTE OF WESTMINSTER 1931" British Parliament Retrieved 2011-Nov-05 
  9. ^ Justice Rouleau in a 2003 court ruling wrote that "Union under the ... Crown together with other Commonwealth countries [is a] constitutional principle". O’Donohue v. Canada, 2003 CanLII 41404 (ON S.C.)
  10. ^ National Symbols: Barbados
  11. ^ a b The Barbados Parliament: Independence
  12. ^ Flags of the World: Flag of Queen Elizabeth II in Barbados
  13. ^ The Form and Order of Service that is to be performed and the Ceremonies that are to be observed in the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the Abbey Church of St. Peter, Westminster, on Tuesday, the second day of June, 1953
  14. ^ Constitution of Barbados; First Schedule
  15. ^ a b Cox, Noel; Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law: Black v Chrétien: Suing a Minister of the Crown for Abuse of Power, Misfeasance in Public Office and Negligence; Volume 9, Number 3 (September 2002)
  16. ^ Constitution of Barbados; Ch. IV.28
  17. ^ Parliament of Barbados: The Constitution
  18. ^ Constitution of Barbados; Ch. VI.63.1 through 71
  19. ^ Constitution of Barbados; various
  20. ^ Constitution of Barbados; Ch. V.35
  21. ^ The Barbados Parliament: The Mace of the House of Assembly
  22. ^ Constitution of Barbados; Ch. V.58.1
  23. ^ Constitution of Barbados; Ch. V.61.1 & 61.2
  24. ^ Barbados Independence Order; 1966 No. 1455
  25. ^ Constitution of Barbados; Ch. VI.78.1 through 78.4
  26. ^ Barbados Postal Service: The Golden Jubilee
  27. ^ Barbados Postal Service: The Golden Jubilee Souvenir Sheet
  28. ^ a b c d The Barbados Parliament: Parliament's History
  29. ^ Barbados Places of Interest: Barclays Park
  30. ^ Thomas, Norman "Gus" (2005-02-07). "Barbados to vote on move to republic". Caribbean Net News. Retrieved 2006-06-30. 
  31. ^ Berdusco, Ron (2007-01-12). "It's time for Canada to grow up". The Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved 2007-01-27. 
  32. ^ Staff writer (2007-11-26). "Referendum on Republic to be bundled with election". Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 2007-11-28. Retrieved 2007-11-27. 
  33. ^ Gollop, Chris (2007-12-02). "Vote Off". The Nation. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 

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