BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday February 24, 2012 – Barbados was abuzz with royalty yesterday as The Earl and Countess of Wessex, Prince Edward and his wife Sophie came a-calling.
The island’s security forces were on full alert as the royal couple arrived at the Bridgetown Port just after 9:30 a.m. on board the royal yacht for a two-day visit in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of the reign of Prince Edward’s mother Queen Elizabeth II.
There was not much fanfare as they made their way through Bridgetown to attend a Joint Sitting of Parliament in the Senate Chambers with the island’s Parliamentarians and Senators.
A warm red carpet welcome was awaiting the royal guests as they were greeted by Senator Kerry-Ann Ifill, deputy president of the Senate, Clerk of Parliament, Pedro Eastmond, and Speaker of the House of Assembly, Michael Carrington.
In his address during the special sitting, Mr. Carrington said he would forever be indebted to Her Majesty for providing “that powerful and necessary symbol of continuity and assurance by remaining the Head of State”.
“In the past 45 years, our democracy has flourished, our people have advanced and our institutions have grown stronger,” he said, noting that some were skeptical about the island’s capabilities to chart its own destiny in 1966.
And, while future constitutional requirements of the country are unknown, Mr. Carrington said the island would be forever indebted to the Queen for her commitment over the years.
Ms. Ifill described the Queen’s loyalty to Barbados as a remarkable achievement, noting that all Barbadians held her in high esteem. She also encouraged Barbadians to take the Queen’s Christmas message to heart during the present uncertain economic climate.
In response, Prince Edward said Barbados held a special place in Her Majesty’s heart as she took a keen interest in all the country’s achievements.
At the end of the sitting the Royal Couple toured the Parliament Museum and National Heroes Gallery with government officials.
They were however enlightened by the history of Barbados’ national heroes, the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, Sarah-ann Gill and Clement Payne. However, it was the video documentary of Barbados’ only living national hero, the Right Excellent Sir Garfield Sobers, knighted by the Queen herself in 1977, that caught their attention the most.
Today The Countess will visit the Albert Cecil Graham Development Centre, while The Earl will present eight young Barbadians with the Duke of Edinburg Gold Awards at Government House.
The Royal Couple will come together again for a ceremony at Kensington Oval where Prince Edward is expected to unveil a plaque to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee.
This will be followed by visits to other areas, including the Prince Cave Hall, home of the Royal Barbados Police Force Band.
The Earl and Countess will then host a reception before leaving Barbados en route for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.