Removing the British monarch as head of state would complete the “decolonization process,” says a Jamaican scholar.
The death of Queen Elizabeth II will hasten the push by former British colonies to ditch the British crown, pundits and advocates have said, amid rising anti-colonial sentiment in the Commonwealth’s remaining realms.
Despite the collapse of the British Empire over the last century, 14 post-independence countries have retained the monarch as head of state.
But since King Charles III. took the throne after the death of his mother last week, several nations are expected to sever ties with Buckingham Palace in the coming years – and move towards a full republican system that does not recognize the monarch.
“In a number of these different countries there were already republican movements. But as long as the queen was alive, there was this sentimental attachment to her person — not to the institution, but to the queen herself,” said Brooke Newman, associate professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“Now that she’s gone, there are far fewer sentimental ties to the institution of monarchy, and then still fewer to the person of Charles III.”
The Commonwealth realms include several Caribbean nations where republicanism is gaining momentum, as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and some Pacific island nations.
While the New Zealand prime minister has ruled out a divorce from the crown in the foreseeable future, things are different in the Caribbean.
Last November, Barbados renounced the crown and became a republic, prompting similar talks in other countries in the region. And since the Queen’s death, the prime minister of nearby Antigua and Barbuda, an island nation of nearly 100,000 people, announced plans to hold a referendum on keeping King Charles III. hold as head of state.
Newman said the Crown’s Commonwealth realm would shrink significantly in the coming decades.
“It will happen during Charles’ reign. If he lives another 20 to 25 years I would be very surprised if by the time his son ascends the throne there are a large number of Commonwealth realms,” she told Al Jazeera.
Republican sentiments are particularly strong in Jamaica, the largest of the Commonwealth of Nations in the Caribbean. “The decision to remove the monarch as head of state is about completing the decolonization process,” said Rosalea Hamilton, coordinator of The Advocacy Network, a group pushing for republicanism in Jamaica.
Hamilton argued that the transition to republicanism would allow for broader constitutional reforms to increase democratic representation and legislative scrutiny in the country. Asked if the Queen’s death has fueled urges to sever ties with the crown, Hamilton said, “Absolutely.”
She added that as the Queen’s obituaries and funeral news dominate the headlines and the country declares 12 days of mourning, more Jamaicans – especially young people – are understanding what it means to have the monarch as head of state.
“The more significant impact it has had is raising awareness among the Jamaican people of what happened and the need to make the change,” Hamilton told Al Jazeera.
In March, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness said during a visit to the British royal family that the island was “moving away” from the crown and that the adoption of republicanism was “inevitable”.
But since then, there has been little progress in changing the constitution and declaring the country a republic, Hamilton said. “We will now strengthen our advocacy in the face of the [queen’s] Death around schedule, more details – ‘When does public education around constitutional change and referendum start?’”
In Jamaica, as in other imperial countries and the United Kingdom itself, the monarch’s role is largely ceremonial. But this attachment to a colonial past, which Hamilton described as “inhuman,” has practical implications.
For example, the country’s final court of appeal is the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, known as a last resort for Commonwealth realms and “overseas territories”.
“We want to move to an arrangement where the court of last appeal is not in the UK but in the Caribbean because if you want full justice and you want to appeal to the highest court you now need a visa and you also have to pay, to go to England to decide your case,” Hamilton said.
She added that visa requirements for Jamaicans to travel to the UK is a “sore point” showing there are no benefits to keeping the British monarch as head of state.