Barbados has officially become a republic.

The Caribbean island said goodbye to the British Queen Elizabeth II as head of state at 5 a.m. (Dutch time).

Dame Sandra Mason is the first president of the island nation

British Crown Prince Charles attended Mason's inauguration in the capital Bridgetown, which took place at midnight on Barbados' Independence Day.

As a republic, the island remains part of the British Commonwealth.

"I, Sandra Prunella Mason, swear that I will be faithful and loyal to Barbados according to the law, so help me God," said the new president, who took the oath at her inauguration.

A long-standing curfew due to the coronavirus pandemic had been suspended to allow residents of Barbados to join the festivities.

It is the start of a new era for the 285,000 inhabitants of the island, which was under British rule for almost 400 years.

Queen Elizabeth also sends congratulations

Charles watched as the royal standard, Elizabeth II's personal flag, was brought down and the new Republic of Barbados was proclaimed.

It's a move Republicans hope will serve as an example for other former British colonies that still have Elizabeth as head of state.

In a speech, the heir apparent underlined the ongoing friendship between the two countries, despite Britain's pivotal role in the transatlantic slave trade.

Queen Elizabeth herself had conveyed the congratulations to Mason and to all the residents of Barbados, whom she wished good luck, peace and prosperity.

Elizabeth has always taken the position that the different countries themselves determine the form of government they want.

In addition to the United Kingdom, Elizabeth is also Queen of Australia, Canada and New Zealand and a whole host of former British colonies in the Caribbean.

The brand new republic also immediately proclaimed singer Rihanna as a national hero.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that decision and the singer, who attended the ceremony, received the honorable award.