The painful story of Barbados’s colonization has been a subject long avoided by members of the royal family during visits to the nation over the decades. But on the night that the Caribbean country made its historic transition to a republic, Prince Charles acknowledged the “appalling atrocity of slavery” carried out by Britain, describing almost 400 years of enforced slave trade as something that “forever stains our history.”

The Prince of Wales traveled from the United Kingdom to attend events marking Barbados becoming a republic and officially parting ways with the British monarchy. On Monday evening, the heir attended an inauguration ceremony in the capital city of Bridgetown, where the country’s first elected president, Sandra Mason, was inaugurated, and the queen was removed as head of state.

“The creation of this republic offers a new beginning, but it also marks a point on a continuum, a milestone on the long road you have not only traveled, but which you have built,” the prince shared in a speech at National Heroes Square. “From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.”

He continued, “Emancipation, self-government, and independence were your waypoints. Freedom, justice, and self-determination have been your guides. Your long journey has brought you to this moment, not as your destination, but as a vantage point from which to survey a new horizon.” After his speech, the prince was presented with the Order of Freedom of Barbados from the newly inaugurated President Mason.

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