It’s been just over 1 month since the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her son King Charles has since succeeded her as the head of the British monarchy — a job that has “reassigned” him to a more global role.
Even though the Queen held no real power in British government— neither does her successor, King Charles III — the monarch holds a symbolic role as the head of British state.
Following the death of Queen Elizabeth, King Charles has become head of state in 14 countries outside the UK, places that are referred to as Commonwealth Realms.
As of 2022, there are 15 Commonwealth realms: 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, Tuvalu, and the United Kingdom.
These are all sovereign states, with many if not all of these countries claiming independence within the 20th century — actually, Canada was the first to gain its independence in 1867.
What is the Commonwealth?
All of the Commonwealth realms were formerly part of the British Empire. The Commonwealth of Nations was formed in 1949 to maintain an association between countries that had once been part of the British colonies.
The Commonwealth works on behalf of member countries to promote peace and prosperity. This includes helping countries with small business development, legislation, election monitoring, and human rights, particularly promoting the role and rights of young people and of women.
Yes, that would make His Majesty the Head of State in Belize!
Currently, the Royal Website still reflects Queen Elizabeth as the Head of State. It says:
- In all her official duties relating to Belize, she speaks and acts as Queen of Belize, and not as Queen of the UK. Royal visits during her reign have helped strengthen the relationship between the Commonwealth nation and the Royal Family.
- As a constitutional monarch, The Queen is not involved in the day-to-day business of the Government of Belize, though she continues to play important ceremonial and symbolic roles in the life of the nation.
Who will remain in the Commonwealth?
It is reported to be widely expected that a few of these countries could remove King Charles as their head of state. Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, has said he intends for Jamaica to be fully independent, as have the leaders of Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and other Caribbean nations.
There are also growing republican (i.e., anti-monarchy) movements in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and elsewhere. Under Queen Elizabeth’s reign, 17 countries left the British monarchy—including, most recently, Barbados in 2021.
Yet, as of now, none have left during King Charles’s reign.
Controversy in the Caribbean
There has also been growing scrutiny of the British Empire’s ties to its former colonies.
This was marked by controversy around a week-long “Caribbean tour” of Belize, Jamaica, and the Bahamas that Prince William and Kate Middleton were on earlier this year.
The royal tour was intended to celebrate the queen’s Platinum Jubilee and strengthen Commonwealth ties.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were scheduled to visit the Akte ‘il Ha cacao farm near the village of Indian Creek in the Toledo district, the southernmost district in Belize.
This land is owned and operated by the Maquin family, who are descendants of the ancient Mayas who once cultivated cacao in the region.
A helicopter carrying the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was meant to land on a football field in the Indian Creek area, but residents and the local Q’eqehi Maya people reportedly took issue with their landing site.
“We don’t want them to land on our land; that’s the message that we want to send,” Indian Creek village chair Sebastian Shol told the Daily Mail. “They could land anywhere, but not on our land.”
They claim that they were not consulted about the use of their field, are in dispute with Flora and Fauna International (FFI), a conservation charity which includes Prince William as a patron.
A Kensington Palace spokesperson said that “due to sensitive issues involving the community in Indian Creek, the visit has been moved to a different location.”
After returning home, Prince William released a statement acknowledging the controversies surrounding their visit, and emphasizing that the decision to be independent from the British monarchy is up to the people. He wrote on Twitter:
“I know that this tour has brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future. In Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas, that future is for the people to decide upon.”
Will Belize remain in the Commonwealth?
The country of Belize — which was once known as the British Honduras when it was part of the British empire — achieved full independence from the United Kingdom on September 21, 1981.
As a member of the Commonwealth, Belize actively participates and receives secretariat support. It could be said that the country has a level of safety and security compared to its neighboring Central American countries.
The question among Belizeans now is whether Belize will follow Barbados and soon Jamaica. The Prime Minister, Honourable Dr. John Briceño commented on this, saying that if anything relating to the matter takes place in the country, it will first involve the opinion of the Belizean public.
What do you think? Should Belize stay in the Commonwealth?