While Britain’s Parliament went on a summer break, a royal family was in Barbados — the Queen.
But instead of playing hostess, the Queen went to work in the White House — as an ambassador. She made a rare visit to Barbados last week, in what many Barbadians considered an unofficial declaration of independence.
The Queen is the symbol of the United Kingdom, and British overseas territories make up a third of the total number of islands around the British Isles. One of the seven is British St. Kitts and Nevis.
Since the 1980s, St. Kitts and Nevis has held that status. Britons have long taken pride in the fact that as part of the former British Empire, St. Kitts and Nevis escaped the wrath of imperialism. It acquired full independence from the Queen in 1983.
“The arrival of the Queen, symbol of British colonialism, as the head of state was greeted as a victory for freedom by many, who would have found it difficult to fully express their emotions had they actually got to see her,” the St. Kitts & Nevis Examiner reported in 1999.
For many Barbadians, a momentous moment also came a few years ago. In 2016, the island entered a period of renewed rule by the Office of the Prime Minister. After a constitutional crisis that threatened to create a constitutional crisis, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart finally brought the monarchy back to St. Kitts and Nevis. That move was hailed in Britain as a triumphant resurrection of the Barbadian democratic spirit.
And as Stuart’s government declared that the days of the monarchy were over, Mr. and Mrs. O’Dowd, the iconic Barbadians famous for their independence film, “Father of the Pride,” could finally celebrate independence and freedom for themselves.
“Mom, if you think of the rest of the Caribbean, this is how they will think of St. Kitts and Nevis,” Mrs. O’Dowd exclaimed.
Mrs. O’Dowd has a personal connection to the island’s new political regime. In 1971, she went to the island and was invited to the lower court. When the judge mispronounced her name, she had to explain to the judge her native Barbadian pronunciation of the English name and she had to flunk the Caribbean’s public speaking contest — “Dad of the Pride”— in Barbados that year.
“Who does it better, if you know what I mean, than Mrs. O’Dowd?” she asked a group of 100 people gathered in the court. “So, dad of the pride of Barbados, when the court is over, can I join the court with you?”
The judge said she would have to decline on the basis of a “German illness,” apparently a reference to her Barbadian accent. But she was set to be inducted with the rest of the court the next year.