‘Charles lacks certainty of the Queen’: Commonwealth countries may accelerate losing King as head of state

Some Commonwealth countries may speed up the process to remove King Charles III as head of state following the death of the Queen, activists and academics have said.

Jamaica, Belize, the Bahamas, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis have already taken the first steps towards being a republic.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness signalled his intention to follow Barbados after it became a republic in November 2021 – and the Queen’s death appears to have hastened the process.

This year, Jamaica marked its 60th anniversary of independence – but writer and activist Marcia Hutchinson told i: “I don’t think it is really independent.”

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Removing Charles as head of state would be a “recognition of the legacy of colonialism and slavery that has kind of been ignored” by the Royal Family, she said.

She added that: “Charles doesn’t have the certainty that his mother did, and I think a lot of countries are quite loyal to her personally.”

However, “changing head of state is not necessarily at the top of anyone’s priority list. There are lots of other things going on. There’s huge economic issues in the UK and in Jamaica,” she said.

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When William and Kate – now Prince and Princess of Wales – visited Jamaica in March, Mr Holness said: “We intend to attain, in short order, our developing goals and to fulfil our true ambitions… as an independent, developed, prosperous country.”

William and Kate were met with protests during their visit, and were greeted outside the British High Commission in Kingston with signs demanding them to “apologise” and “go back home”.

KINGSTON, JAMAICA - FEBRUARY 18: Queen Elizabeth II Beginning Her Jubilee Tour In This Commonwealth Country Just Three Days After The Funeral Of Her Younger Sister. Changing From Her Black Mourning Clothes She Chose A Bright Orange Colour To Celebrate This Important First Overseas Visit Of Her Jubilee Year. She Is Inspecting A Guard Of Honour Of The Jamaica Defence Force. (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
The Queen in Jamaica during her Golden Jubilee Tour in 2002 (Photo: Tim Graham/Getty)

Mr Holness said Jamaica was “moving on”, and in June he announced that it would transition to a republic in time for the next general election in 2025.

A survey taken at the time showed that 56 per cent of Jamaicans favoured removing the British monarch as head of state, according to Reuters.

In 2021, the Jamaican government revealed plans to ask for reparations from the UK over its involvement in the slave trade, with an estimated 600,000 Africans shipped to toil in Jamaica, according to the National Library of Jamaica.

Royal links to the slave trade

Britain’s royal ties to slavery were formed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. In 1562 she gave approval for John Hawkins to include enslaved Africans in his cargo to be traded for goods such as ginger and sugar.

The connections continued with King Charles II, who granted a charter to the Royal African Company in 1663 – of which his brother James, who became King James II, was a member. It was the moment the transatlantic slave trade officially began, with royal approval, in the English – later British – Empire.

The Royal African Company was responsible for transporting more than 187,000 slaves from Africa to English colonies in the Americas. Many slaves were branded “DY”, standing for Duke of York, the title initially held by James II.

Jamaican MP Mike Henry claimed the reparation petition was worth an estimated £7.6 billion in today’s value, reflecting what Britain paid to slaveholders.

Matthew J Smith, a hisotry professor at University College London, said Barbados had reignited a movement that began with Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, who fully became republics in the 60s.

“Barbados have demonstrated that by going in that direction it’s really fitting in with the times that we’re living in,” said Professor Smith, who is director of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership at UCL.

“The Jamaican government should do what constitutionally they’re expected to and take it to a referendum to see what the people feel.”

GREAT ABACO, BAHAMAS - MARCH 26: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visit a Fish Fry ??? a quintessentially Bahamian culinary gathering place which is found on every island in The Bahamas on March 26, 2022 in Great Abaco, Bahamas. Abaco was dramatically hit by Hurricane Dorian which saw winds of up to 185mph and left devastation in its wake. Their Royal Highnesses are learning about the impact of the hurricane and see how communities are still being rebuilt more than two years on. (Photo by Samir Hussein - Pool/WireImage)
The Prince and Princess of Wales during their tour of The Bahamas this year (Photo: Samir Hussein/WireImage)

“The security provided by having the Queen as head of state was an enabling factor in maintaining a sense of progress,” he added. “Developments within this framework had been cast in 1962 during the period of decolonization, so that’s what’s fundamentally kept it going.”

In 2012, Jamaica’s then-prime minister Portia Simpson-Miller revealed her desire to “initiate the process of detachment from the monarchy”.

Author and broadcaster Marvyn Harrison, who presents the podcast Dope Black Dads, said he felt that King Charles must make a greater effort to make amends in Jamaica if he hopes to remain head of state.

“There needs to be a real plan of honouring countries in the Commonwealth,” he said, claiming that a “hostile environment” had formed in Jamaican communities towards the British monarchy and the UK government.

More on The Queen

Debate over whether to become a republic has also been renewed in Australia and New Zealand but both countries’ prime ministers, Anthony Albanese and Jacinda Arden, have stated that they will not push for change in the near future out of respect for the Queen.

The countries where Charles is head of state

Of the 54 Commonwealth countries, the British monarch is head of state in 15, inculsing the UK.

The other 14 Realms are: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The 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.

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