Barbados officially became a republic on Tuesday, ending nearly 400 years of British rule.
The island’s most famous citizen, Rihanna, was on hand to witness the celebration, which formally cut ties with Queen Elizabeth II. It took place in Barbados’ capital, Bridgetown, where a young Robyn Fenty was raised before she moved to the U.S. to pursue a music career.
During the ceremony, the newly-independent country swore in its first president, Sandra Mason, while Rihanna was declared a National Hero. Prime Minister Mia Mottley honored the billionaire pop star for commanding “the imagination of the world” with her excellence, creativity, discipline and, “above all else, her extraordinary commitment to the land of her birth,” according to The New York Times.
“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation by your works, by your actions,” said Mottley in a nod to Rihanna’s 2012 hit “Diamonds.”
“This is a day that I would never ever forget, it’s also a day that I never saw coming,” she said while celebrating her Caribbean roots. “Barbadians are proud people. We are probably the proudest people I know. And no matter where I go in the world, I take that pride with me. No matter where we go, the world is gonna know that we Bajan to the bone.”
She continued, “I’m so proud to be a Bajan. I’m gonna be a Bajan till the day I die. This is still the only place I’ve ever called home. I love Barbados. I love you guys and I pray that the youth continue to push Barbados forward.”
A humbled Rihanna also addressed the Prime Minister. “I have traveled the world and received several awards and recognitions, but nothing compares to being recognized in the soil that you grew in, so I thank you so much for this.”
Britain’s Prince Charles was also in attendance to receive the Order of Freedom of Barbados.