After the death of the Queen: is the Commonwealth now crumbling? |

Status: 09/13/2022 3:40 p.m

After the death of the Queen, a debate has arisen in some countries of the vast Commonwealth as to how the monarchy is to be viewed there. Do you want to be a subject – or live in a republic?

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6 Min

by Lena Bodewein

Because in 14 of the 54 Commonwealth countries, the Queen was head of state and Charles is now after her. These include some large states such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but also smaller island states such as the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu in the Pacific.

Will Charles remain the monarch of Australia?

Barbados started last year and has become a republic. A similar debate is now taking place in Antigua and Barbuda. But Australia, New Zealand and Canada – they are real heavyweights in terms of their size and population.

In Australia and New Zealand, Charles has now been officially declared monarch: There were appropriate ceremonies in the capitals over the weekend, with gun salutes and the traditions we know from the mother country.

Further information

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, (centre), with members of the Government and representatives of the Commonwealth Nations in London in 2012.  © picture alliance / empics Photo: Lefteris Pitarakis

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Flags also fly at half-mast in New Zealand and Australia, which will mark a public holiday in honor of the Queen on September 22, shortly after her funeral. And to honor her, her portrait shone at the Sydney Opera House. The grief there is evident, but the question is getting louder: Will Charles remain the monarch of Australia? There was an almost intimate connection with the Queen: she has visited Australia 16 times, she also had an Australian private secretary for a long time, she loved racehorses and horse racing – the Australians too. The Australians are a very unique people, on the one hand light-footed in flip-flops and with surfboards, on the other hand stubborn, proud and self-determined – the Queen saw that too. The Australians said: “We like the Queen, she is admirable as a person, she has accompanied us through our post-war period – but now a different era has begun.”

“I cannot mourn the leader of a racist empire”

Many see the need to become a republic; they had kept their feet still on this question during Queen Elizabeth’s lifetime, but it started immediately after her death: The Green Adam Bandt tweeted: “My heartfelt condolences, but we have to look ahead!” His party colleague Mehreen Faruqi was even clearer, saying: “I cannot mourn the leader of a racist empire built on stolen lives and stolen lands and on the well-being of colonized people.”

There have been a fair number of complaints about these rather insensitive approaches, saying that this is clearly the wrong time to talk about it. But: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is actually in favor of Australia becoming a republic. After taking office, he had appointed a state minister for the transition to a republic. But a corresponding referendum should only take place later.

New Zealand announces “era of change”.

In neighboring New Zealand, with its five million inhabitants, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced “an era of change”: Charles has reliably demonstrated his deep affection for her nation, and this relationship is also greatly valued by her people. She has no doubt that this relationship will continue to deepen.

Further information

Queen Elizabeth II © dpa-Bildfunk Photo: Frank Augustein/PA Wire/dpa

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In fact, Charles has been to New Zealand more often than his mother – he is well-loved, also for his green commitment and farming activities and expertise. Many New Zealanders share and appreciate that.

Despite this, some politicians say the debate over whether New Zealand will become a republic is now gaining momentum. Because an important point for many is increased bitterness and insult at how the British, as colonial masters, treated the indigenous population. Incidentally, this is a point that applies to both the Maori in New Zealand and the Aboriginal Australians in Australia.

Empire nostalgia on many island states

Among the Pacific Islands, only Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands still have the British monarch as head of state. In the Solomon Islands, the Queen was called “Fau Ni Qweraasi”, which means something like “a protector of the people” – and that’s how she was affectionately called again.

After her death, there is a certain nostalgia in many of the island states, where the flags fly at half-mast, as in Fiji or Vanuatu. It’s a very special relationship, showing the remnants of the empire on the other side of the world. Photos of Prince Philip and the Queen can be found everywhere, the legacies of the Queen’s visits are presented in all grand hotels; on the island of Tanna, which belongs to the island state of Vanuatu, there is even a cult of Prince Philip – they worship him as a god.

No strong bond among the younger generation

But even there, in Vanuatu, Samoa or Fiji, the issue of colonialism is often the dominant theme: the British had often proclaimed the islands to be the crown, claimed mineral resources and other riches for themselves, drained them and then left them behind. The younger generation in particular therefore has no strong ties to the royal family, but is indifferent to hostile towards it. They are all struggling with the effects of the climate crisis that is threatening their homeland – they tend to feel left alone.

Further information

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II © picture alliance / empics |  Chris Jackson Photo: Chris Jackson

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NDR Culture | Journal Conversation | 09/13/2022 | 4:30 p.m

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