By Caribbean News Now contributor
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- With much pomp and ceremony on Thursday, the Barbados government rolled out the ‘red carpet' for the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Prince Edward and Princess Sophie during a joint sitting of Parliament in the Senate Chambers.
During an address before the Earl and Countess and their entourage, parliamentarians and senators, Speaker of the House, Michael Carrington, said Barbados would, forever, be indebted to Her Majesty for providing "that powerful and necessary symbol of continuity and assurance by remaining as the Head of State".
He added: "Her [Queen Elizabeth's II] benevolent presence has given us the space and time to grow, not in revolutionary steps, but through sure and quiet progress. In the past 45 years, our democracy has flourished, our people have advanced and our institutions have grown stronger."
Reflecting on the significance of the signing of the 1652 Charter of Barbados, Carrington observed that securing the rights to self-rule, free trade, the right to property and the freedom from taxation without their consent through a general assembly, were at the core of the modern representative parliamentary democracy.
The Speaker pointed out that although some critics were skeptical about the island's capabilities to chart its own destiny in 1966, the architects of its Constitution were "sensitive to the anxieties of the people and conscious of the need to build on the foundations of the past. Thus, they sought to provide an environment of certainty and continuity, which would allow the new nation to develop in peace and grow in self-confidence".
Carrington acknowledged that while one cannot say what future constitutional requirements the country may require from government, he said the island would be forever indebted to Queen Elizabeth II.
"We are all convinced of one thing; that the deep and enduring commitment of her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Barbados, to her loyal subjects, the people of Barbados...will always retain an enduring place in our hearts...," he underlined.
Meanwhile, deputy president of the Senate, Kerry-ann Ifill, described Queen Elizabeth's II 60 years of unbroken reign as a remarkable achievement and said that Barbadians of all ages held her in high esteem.
"She has devoted her entire life to the solemn duties which destiny has required of her and for steadfast dedication to the service of her people within Great Britain and throughout the Commonwealth," Ifill emphasised.
Acknowledging that the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen's reign came against a backdrop of uncertain economic circumstances, the deputy president urged Barbadians to be guided by a spirit of resilience and faith as espoused in the Queen's Christmas Message last year.
In response, Prince Edward thanked the government for the opportunity to represent the Queen at the historic joint sitting of Parliament and conveyed Her Majesty's delight in the country's development.
"Barbados and Barbadians hold a special place in Her Majesty's heart. She takes a keen interest in all that you do and is proud of your achievement, in particular, the progress Barbados has made in its 45 years as a sovereign state. Her affection towards you remains strong and constant as the day, 60 years ago, when she acceded to the Throne and pledged to dedicate her life to service of the people of her realms and territories," he added.
At the end of the historic sitting, the Earl, attired in a dark coloured suit and the Countess, in a beige and gold dupioni silk sleeveless dress by designer Maxmara, toured the Parliament Museum and National Heroes Gallery, along with government officials.
The royal couple was able to get a picture of moments in Barbados' history and learn about some of this nation's finest citizens during the tour.
Facilities coordinator David Best explained the significance of each exhibit. They showed keen interest in the displays, especially the life and history of Errol Walton Barrow, Sarah-ann Gill and Clement Payne, and the metallic sculpture by Dr Lance Bannister, among others.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex were especially captivated by a video documentary of the life and times of Barbados' only living national hero, Sir Garfield Sobers, and his knighthood by Her Majesty, The Queen, in 1977 at the Garrison Historic Area.
At the end of the tour, they waved to a few supporters who lined the streets to get a glimpse of the royal party.
Friday’s leg of the state visit will see the royal couple visiting a number of facilities. During the morning, the Countess will visit the Albert Cecil Graham Development Centre, while the Earl will present eight young Barbadians with Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards at Government House.
Immediately following, they will attend a ceremony in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee at the historic Kensington Oval, where the Earl will unveil a plaque. National Hero, Sir Garfield Sobers, will also be in attendance. The royal couple will also meet and be entertained by students from select schools.
The prime minister will host their royal highnesses at a lunch at Ilaro Court. Later that afternoon, the Earl and Countess will visit the Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum and the Mikvah (spiritual bath) in Bridgetown.
Following this, the royal party will tour the Prince Cave Hall, home of the renowned Royal Barbados Police Force Band.
The curtain will come down at 6:30 pm, when the royal party will host a reception before departing Barbados for St Vincent and the Grenadines.