There is a new Black head of state in Europe. Wales, one of four countries comprising the United Kingdom, recently selected Vaughan Gething as its first minister, the highest position in the Welsh Parliament. The election is a first for Wales, the U.K., and it is believed to be history-making for all of Europe.

Gething, whose father is from Wales and whose mother is from Zambia, recently defeated Welsh Education Minister and fellow Labour Party member Jeremy Miles in a close party vote to take over the role of Welsh First Minister, the highest position in the Senedd, the Welsh Parliament. The promotion became official in late March after First Minister Mark Drakeford stepped down, and Gething took his place with the approval of King Charles III. 

“Today, we turn a page in the book of our nation’s history. A history we write together,” Gething said to his party colleagues in March after winning the vote to become their leader. “Not just because I have the honour of becoming the first Black leader in any European country, but because the generational dial has jumped too.”

Gething is the son of a white Welsh father and a Black Zambian mother. He was born in Zambia, but his family moved to the U.K. when he was 2, growing up in Wales and England. In 2011, he became a member of the Senedd. He served as health minister for Wales during the COVID-19 pandemic and is now the economic minister. Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland comprise the United Kingdom. Despite its distinct culture and language, Wales has been dominated politically by England for centuries. In 1999, Wales received semi-autonomous status within the United Kingdom with the creation of its legislature. Gething will only be the fifth person to serve as first minister of Wales.

As Gething and others have noted, his appointment likely makes him the first Black person to lead any European country. While some have speculated that England’s Queen Charlotte — the wife of King George III and mother of King George IV — had African ancestry, such speculation has never been proven. Gething’s appointment reflects the growing diversity in the U.K. and its government. Three of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom are now led by non-white politicians, and the fourth, Northern Ireland, is currently led by two women who occupy equal roles.

Gething’s appointment thus marks an important step for Wales, the United Kingdom and all of Europe, while building on a growing diversity within the leadership of the continent. 

“I believe the Wales of today and the future will be owned by all those decent people who recognize that our Parliament and our government should look like our country,” Gething said in a recent speech, even as his appointment brings that belief a bit closer to reality.