The Bahamas has always held a special place in my affections.
I remember with great fondness my visit in July 1973, when serving the Royal Navy in HMS Minerva, to attend the Independence Day celebration. I particularly recall the police band first playing March On Bahamaland, the first moment the flag of black, aquamarine and gold was raised. And no fewer than three Independence Balls when I danced at the first one with the wife of the then Prime Minister now, of course, Dame Marguerite Pindling.
The people of The Bahamas have always given such a warm welcome to my family and myself and I know that my mother, the late Queen, and my late father retained equally happy memories of their five visits to The Bahamas between 1966 and 1994. I’m also most grateful for how you all welcomed my eldest son and daughter-in-law, the Prince and Princess of Wales, last year and how the many young participants of the Governor General’s Youth Awards welcomed my brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, this spring.
It is thus perhaps no surprise that for my family and myself The Bahamas has always felt like a home away from home, both in public and in private. Much, of course, has happened since my last visit.
Most recently I know the unchecked crisis of global warming and climate change continues to ravage these islands. Members of my family have related to me their discussions with the people of Grand Bahama and Abaco, and I have heard of your resilience and compassion for one another following Hurricane Dorian, as well as how international organizations, including the Royal Navy, responded so swiftly.
Throughout the last 50 years, there are so many stories to celebrate. Of Bahamian leadership on the global stage, of sports stars, playwrights, Olympians, chefs, authors, business leaders, film stars, musicians, artists, inventors and designers. You can all be enormously proud of what has been achieved.
And of special importance to me throughout the past 50 years, The Bahamas has been an indispensable member of our Commonwealth Family.
I felt it of great importance that my family play a part in your anniversary year and that is why I hope to be able to celebrate with you as soon as possible and to meet some of the many Bahamians who are already shaping the next 50 years; such as Christina Fernander, the first female chairperson of a winning Junkanoo group, young sailors such as Craig Ferguson, aspiring to the Olympic legacy of Durwood Knowles, pioneering climate scientists such as Alannah Vellacott, Marjahn Finlayson and Charles Hamilton. And, of course, Dame Marguerite, who I hope will save her next dance for me.
From Andros to San Salvador, Eleuthera to Inagua, Grand Bahama to Nassau and across the beautiful Family Islands of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, my wife and I send you all our warmest and most heartfelt congratulations at this very special time.
Forward, Upward, Onward, Together.
Happy 50th Anniversary of Independence – March on Bahamaland!