Sep 15, 2022 - World

What's next for King Charles III and the Commonwealth countries

Britain's King Charles III walks behind the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II.

Britain's King Charles III walks behind the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: Isabel Infantes - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The passing of Queen Elizabeth II — and the ascent of King Charles III to the throne — comes as several Commonwealth nations are re-evaluating their relationship to the British monarchy.

The big picture: Multiple Commonwealth countries — a voluntary association of 56 countries, many of them republics that used to be under British rule — may sever ties with the monarchy over its legacy of colonialism.

Context: The Commonwealth's 56 countries represent about 2.5 billion people, more than a third of the world's population. Within the 56 countries, there are 14 realms that will have King Charles III as their monarch.

  • Those 14 countries include Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
  • The remaining countries are independent of the monarchy but are still within the Commonwealth. The 1949 London Declaration allowed republics and other countries to join the Commonwealth of Nations.
  • Four of the countries — Gabon, Togo, Mozambique and Rwanda — joined the commonwealth without any connection to the British empire.

What they're saying: “The accession of Charles is of course putting this debate front and center: What are we doing with this British, distant, White monarch as our head of state?” Kate Quinn, an associate professor of Caribbean history at University College London, told the Washington Post.

Caribbean nations have been recently reconsidering their future with the UK in part amid the Black Lives Matter movement and criticism of how the monarchy treated migrants during World War II, according to the Washington Post.

  • The latest royal visits have only stoked concerns from these countries. Prince William and Princess Kate's royal trip in June was deemed "tone deaf" and a callback to colonialism.
  • Barbados already cast off the monarchy as a head of state, becoming a republic and replacing the queen with a president back in 2021, Axios reports.

State of play: Some Caribbean nations are already putting together plans to break away from the monarchy.

  • Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said he plans to hold a referendum on separating from the monarchy within the next few years, according to Bloomberg.
  • Belize is actively considering a constitutional reform, which could lead to the Central American nation becoming a republic, the Washington Post reports.
  • The Bahamas has also been considering a republic, but specific steps toward forming that style of government remain unclear, the Nassau Guardian reports.
  • Jamaica has been teasing the idea of becoming a republic, too, as the country has had a tenuous relationship with the monarchy, per BBC News.

Yes, but: Grenada, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu have yet to announce any formal steps to break away.

Outside of the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand accepted King Charles III as their new monarch but hinted at a shift toward independence.

  • Adam Bandt, the leader of Australia’s Greens Party, said on Twitter that "Australia must move forward,” saying “We need [a] Treaty with First Nations people, and we need to become a Republic.”
  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pledged support for King Charles III but said the country will become a republic "in time," according to the New York Times.

Canada is still questioning its future connections to the monarchy due to "the central role of colonialism by the British Crown in the systemic racism perpetrated against Indigenous Peoples," per Global News.

  • The North American nation has also been critical of the recently-discovered burial sites at former residential schools, which were run by Catholic missionaries.

Go deeper: King Charles III won't have to pay inheritance tax

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