Wednesday 21 February 2018

When Harry met Rihanna: singer marks Barbados independence anniversary

Prince Harry has met one of Barbados' most celebrated daughters, superstar Rihanna - as he read a message of support from the Queen to mark the 50th anniversary of the nation's independence.

The singer was a surprise guest - for Harry at least - at the annual Toast the Nation event celebrating national achievements.

The Queen's grandson read a message from the monarch where she paid tribute to Barbados and its people who, since achieving independence from the UK on November 30 1966, "have continued to flourish and grow into a strong and confident nation".

Harry and the celebrity, famed for hits like S&M and Umbrella, shook hands briefly inside a marquee shortly after the prince had arrived at the event in the capital Bridgetown.

She was dressed in a long dress - a demure fashion choice compared to her pop videos which feature risque outfits - while the prince, who is on a 15-day tour of the Caribbean, looked smart in a suit, shirt and tie.

Later they will share a stage at the centrepiece event of the 50th anniversary celebrations, a mega concert at Kensington Oval cricket ground in Bridgetown in front of a 20,000-strong crowd.

Rihanna will sing the Barbados national anthem with the country's national youth choir and Harry will make a speech before the event begins.

The prince read the Queen's message to the guests: "Prince Philip and I send our warmest wishes to the Government and the people of Barbados on the occasion of your 50th Anniversary of Independence.

"Since you became an independent country in 1966, you have continued to flourish and grow into a strong and confident nation.

"The extraordinary talents of your people, from the cricket field to the music industry have been admired and recognised throughout the world. Barbados remains a favoured holiday destination for British people, not only for the incredible natural beauty of your country but because you have a great warmth and generosity of spirit.

"Over the years I have visited Barbados five times and you have kindly welcomed many other members of my family.

"Our countries have a shared history, shared values and an affection which continues to bind us in friendship. On this day of celebration, I send my congratulations to you on your Golden Jubilee of Independence."

Among the Bajan guests at the event which featured a lunch was cricketing legend Sir Garfield Sobers - the first batsman to his six sixes in an over - considered a national hero.

Rihanna, who was born in parish of Saint Michael and raised in Bridgetown, sat at the same table as Guyana's president David Granger, just across from the prince's table.

With Harry's Caribbean tour ending in Guyana this weekend he walked over to say hello to the president first and kept the singer waiting before turning to say hello and shake hands.

"Hello, it's very nice to meet you," said the prince who wore his medals, and around his neck his insignia as a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.

A senior royal aide later revealed that Harry had been told 20 minutes before he arrived that Rihanna would be there.

He said: "We thought he would be meeting her for the first time at the concert later. He found out just before arriving. About 20 minutes before, that she would be here and sitting near his table.

"I think because all the timings have been changed around due to the bad weather, there is a certain degree of fluidity in the arrangements."

Toast the Nation, an annual Independence Day lunch, was held at the headquarters of the Barbados Defence Force at St Ann's Fort in the capital.

Before asking guests to raise a glass to Barbados prime minister Freundel Stuart feted Rihanna and the other star guest Sir Garfield, in a speech.

From a rostrum outside, Mr Stuart told guests seated in the marquee, he was pleased Harry was there representing the Queen.

He said: "Especially welcome too is the Barbadian superstar Rihanna, whose presence here this evening lends a perfect enhancement to the occasion. We are very pleased to have her here."

Mr Stuart recalled that in the summer of 1966 while politicians at Lancaster House were discussing independence for Barbados, Sir Garfield was making his own statement on behalf of the nation and the West Indies in a Test match series in which he dominated with bat and ball.

Mr Stuart has made no secret of his desire to see Barbados replace the Queen as the country's head of state with a president born on the island.

He recalled that in 1651 Barbados briefly declared independence from England in protest at its treatment by the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, but a naval squadron suppressed the rebellion.

The politician said about Harry: "We are very pleased to have him here as a special representative of Her Gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth II."

Earlier, the prince, sitting beside Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave, Mr Stuart, and the country's chief justice, met 20 people honoured on Independence Day for their contribution to the nation in all walks of life from education to science, health and public service.

Press Association

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