The uncertain future of the Commonwealth following the coronation of Charles III, in light of republican aspirations among the realms – Rania Darwiche

The Commonwealth or Commonwealth of Nations is a free association of sovereign states comprising the United Kingdom and several former dependencies that acknowledge the British monarch as a symbolic head of their association. It has 56 state members and is home to 2.5 billion people, around 30% of the World population. Among Commonwealth countries, there are currently fifteen kingdoms, or realms, recognizing the sovereignty of the British monarch as their head of state, among them Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand, United Kingdom; thirty-six republics, among them India and Pakistan; and five monarchies that have their own monarch, such as Brunei, Lesotho and Malaysia[1] [2] [3] [4].

 

Les nations du Commonwealth (1942)
(Source : British Information Service)

 

The late Queen Elizabeth II was regarded as a unifying and stabilizing force within the Commonwealth. Her personal relationships with leaders and citizens of member countries helped to foster a sense of continuity, cohesion and shared purpose. With her passing, the ascension of her less popular son, Charles III, to the throne could indeed introduce uncertainties and challenges, particularly given the republican aspirations within several Commonwealth realms and the calls for reparations for slavery. These challenges may raise questions about the relevance and future of the monarchy in these realms and the future of the organization itself. Therefore, does the Commonwealth hold an uncertain future in light of King Charles III’s coronation and the republican aspirations of the Commonwealth countries?

The coronation of Charles III took place on May 6th 2023 in London at Westminster Abbey. This historical event, where solemn religious ceremonies and royal pageantry intersected was broadcasted all around the world and watched by millions of people in the UK and beyond[5] [6]. Some Commonwealth countries celebrated the occasion, while for others this event has revived criticism and debates about Britain’s colonial past, and the rise of republicanism[7].

After the death of Queen Elizabeth (8th September 2022), the longest reigning monarch in the UK, who enjoyed an immense popularity as Head of the Commonwealth, and the ascension of her less popular son King Charles III to the throne, it is unclear whether this institution can outlive the symbol of its unity who was holding it together. Several Commonwealth countries, particularly the realms, are already questioning the relevance of this organization and the legacy of the British monarch as their Head of State. Furthermore, some African and Caribbean governments are even calling for reparations for the harm and agony induced by the slave trade conducted by the British Empire before the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act. In addition, the expanding republican movement within the Commonwealth raises serious questions about the continuity of this organization[8].

India became the first country to become a Republic within the Commonwealth after the London declaration in 1949, whereby the Commonwealth changed its rules to start admitting republics. With more and more member countries turning into republics (or joining the Commonwealth as republics), a total of thirty-six at present, Barbados being the most recent country to get rid of the monarchy and become a republic in 2021, the impact on the Commonwealth organization is inevitable. Indeed, republican aspirations continue to steadily grow among Commonwealth members. In New Zealand, Australia and Canada, where there is widespread indignation around the harmful impact of Britain colonisation on indigenous people, republican voices are becoming louder. In June 2022, Australia’s government appointed a minister in charge of overseeing the transition of Australia to a republic. And shortly after the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the ascension of King Charles III to the throne, the republican debate was revived[9] [10] [11]. However, it’s probably in Jamaica that a transition to a republican state seems the most imminent. One of Jamaica’s well-known newspapers, the Gleaner, stated that Queen Elizabeth II’s death made Jamaica’s removal of the British monarch as head of state much easier. A senior Jamaican minister has also stated that King Charles III’s coronation has expedited the country’s preparation to become a republic, possibly by 2024[12].

Belize has already decided to review its constitution to become a republic. The British Virgin Islands are also heading in the same direction, and announced their plan shortly before the coronation. Antigua and Barbuda’s government also stated in 2022 that it’s planning to hold a referendum on the country becoming a republic within the next three years[13]. After the Queen’s death, the Bahamas has also declared its intention to hold a republic referendum, and remove King Charles III as head of state[14].

Two days before King Charles III’s coronation, campaigners from 12 different Commonwealth member states asked him to apologize for the damage and atrocities of British colonialism. One of the signatories was Lidia Thorpe, an Australian senator, who stated that Charles should “begin a process of repairing the damage of colonization, including returning the stolen wealth that has been taken from our people’’[15].

To conclude, after the death of the highly popular Queen Elizabeth II, who played a key role to maintain unity and stability within the Commonwealth, King Charles III’s coronation has indeed raised uncertainties regarding the future of this organization, especially in light of the republican aspirations that exist in several of its member states. Demands for apologies and reparations for the tremendous harm caused by the slave trade during colonialism further complicate the situation and reignite discussions about the future of monarchy within the Commonwealth Realms and even about the relevance of the organization in the modern era. It’s likely that the growing republican movement and reparations demands will play a key role in shaping the Commonwealth’s uncertain future.

 

Rania Darwiche – Master 1 Etudes anglophones


[1] “The Commonwealth facts”. The Commonwealthhttps://thecommonwealth.org/about/facts. Accessed on 5 May 2023.

[2] “Republics in the Commonwealth of Nations”. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republics_in_the_Commonwealth_of_Nations. Accessed on 6 May 2023.

[3] “Commonwealth of Nations”. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth_of_Nations. Accessed on 2 May 2023.

[4] “Commonwealth, association of sovereign states”. Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Commonwealth-association-of-states. Accessed on 2 May 2023.

[5] -“Your complete guide to the King’s coronation”. BBC News,6 May 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-65342840. Accessed on 10 May 2023.

[6] Picheta, Rob. “The lady in blue, vanishing princes and the crowning event: Key moments from the coronation”. CNN, 7 May 2023. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/05/06/uk/coronation-king-charles-key-moments-ckc-gbr-intl-scli/index.html. Accessed on 10 May 2023.

[7] Hughes, Charlotte. “Commonwealth countries view King Charles’ coronation with mixed feelings”. France 24, 7 May 2023, https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20230507-commonwealth-countries-view-king-charles-coronation-with-mixed-feelings. Accessed on 10 May 2023.

[8] Oldfield, John. “Abolition of the slave trade and slavery in Britain”. British Library, 4 February 2021, https://www.bl.uk/restoration-18th-century-literature/articles/abolition-of-the-slave-trade-and-slavery-in-britain#:~:text=Britain%27s%20involvement%20in%20the%20transatlantic,plantations%20and%20denied%20basic%20rights. Accessed on 11 May 2023.

[9] “Barbados becomes a republic and parts ways with the Queen”. BBC News, 30 November, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-59470843. Accessed on 11 May 2023.

[10] Shah, Simmone. “These Are the Countries That Could Drop King Charles III as Sovereign Next”. Time, 1 May 2023, https://time.com/6276105/king-charles-iii-coronation-monarchy-caribbean/. Accessed on 12 May 2023.

[11] “King’s coronation draws apathy, criticism among former colonies in Commonwealth”. PBS News Hour, 5 May 2023, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/kings-coronation-draws-apathy-criticism-among-former-colonies-in-commonwealth. Accessed on 9 May 2023.

[12] Fowler, Richard. ‘Jamaica’s Prime Minister Pushes Forward To Make Nation A Republic”. Forbes, 19 January 2023, https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardfowler/2023/01/19/jamaicas-prime-minister-pushes–forward-to-make-nation-a-republic/?sh=3bc5d81b2c9d. Accessed on 1 May 2023.

[13] Wintour, Patrick. “King Charles’s ascension ignites debate over royals across Commonwealth”. The Guardian, 10 September 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/sep/10/king-charles-ascension-ignites-debate-over-role-across-commonwealth-death-queen-elizabeth-ii. Accessed on 2 May 2023.

[14] Pyman, Tom. “The Bahamas becomes latest Commonwealth country to signal its intention to hold republic referendum in wake of Queen’s death months after William signaled monarchy’s support for nations to decide their own futures during tour”. Mail Online, 15 September, 2022, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11215921/The-Bahamas-latest-Commonwealth-country-signal-intention-hold-republic-referendum.html. Accessed on 2 May 2023.

[15] “King’s coronation draws apathy, criticism among former colonies in Commonwealth”. PBS News Hour, 5 May 2023, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/kings-coronation-draws-apathy-criticism-among-former-colonies-in-commonwealth. Accessed on 9 May 2023.


OpenEdition vous propose de citer ce billet de la manière suivante :
mastersfdl (11 juillet 2023). The uncertain future of the Commonwealth following the coronation of Charles III, in light of republican aspirations among the realms – Rania Darwiche. Investigatio. Consulté le 15 juillet 2024 à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/ra92


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