The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth welcomed a new monarch the moment Queen Elizabeth passed this past September 8. King Charles III has been officially proclaimed the new monarch (he became the oldest person to do so at 73 years old), and he is now Head of the Commonwealth of Nations. Will King Charles III’s reign see the end of the Commonwealth? This is a question that is on the minds of many as the new monarch takes the reins of the British Monarchy.
The Commonwealth is one of the world’s largest and most diverse international organizations, made up of 56 countries, almost all of which were former colonies of the United Kingdom, covering some 2.5 billion people or about one-third of the world’s population. It provides a network to foster international cooperation and trade links, with a focus on promoting democracy and development and addressing issues such as climate change. However, this organization has its roots in colonization, a dark past many countries want to finally leave behind.
Of the 56 countries that make up the Commonwealth, 14 are part of the Commonwealth realm, which means they still keep the British monarch as their head of state. The other countries became independent after Queen Elizabeth II took the throne in 1952, and many have since thrown off the monarchy. Nonetheless, she saw the Commonwealth as a way to keep diverse nations together.
Prince Charles follows Queen Elizabeth II as head of the organization. However, calls for change are growing amid the Commonwealth realm, and some countries have expressed interest in becoming a republic.
Which Countries Wish to Change their Status?
Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are among the countries that wish to change their status. Shortly after Charles was confirmed king of Antigua and Barbuda, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said he intended to hold a republic referendum “within the next three years.”
Calls for change are also growing in Jamaica, where Prime Minister Andrew Holness told Charles’ son William in March that the nation was “moving on” as an independent country. An August survey showed that 56 percent of Jamaicans favor removing the British monarch as the head of state.
In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves proposed a referendum in July but said he would only pursue it if there is bipartisan support. The decision of Barbados to ditch the queen as head of state in November 2021 was seen as a boost for the republican cause, and Belize has said it wants to follow suit.
In the Bahamas, following a visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prime Minister Phillip Davis said he hopes that during the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of independence, “there is a lively discussion and debate about our future: about who we are and what we want to be.”
In Grenada, people have also questioned the crown’s role in the country, and Arley Grill, the chairman of Grenada’s National Reparations Committee, said early this year that the monarchy has lost “its relevance and significance.”
Saint Kitts and Nevis also indicated their intention to revise the relationship with the monarchy, and in Saint Lucia, there have also been calls to become a republic. In April, former Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said he supported those calls. The royals have said they would not stand in its way.
Which Countries Wish to Remain Under the British Monarchy?
In Canada, republicans are a minority, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau affirmed the country’s loyalty to the new king. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday her government will not pursue becoming a republic following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The question of Australia becoming a republic is a hotly debated topic, with polls over the years showing near-equal support for both the monarchists and republicans.
Leaders in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu have also expressed their support for the monarchy.
Many are wondering whether King Charles III’s reign will see the end of the Commonwealth. The future of the organization seems uncertain, as it faces a growing number of republic movements across the Commonwealth realm. Some Commonwealth leaders think the organization needs to evolve to remain relevant in the 21st century. They argue that the association needs to become more democratic and inclusive and that it should focus more on issues such as human rights and climate change.
As he assumes the role, King Charles III will have to navigate conflicting opinions to unite the organization’s members and address their concerns while also respecting their wishes and constitutional arrangements.