Barbados has announced that it will remove Queen Elizabeth II as the country’s head of state and transition to a republic by November 2021, becoming the first country since 1992 to remove the Queen—but the monarch will still continue to rule over 14 countries in addition to her home nation of the United Kingdom.
- In addition to Barbados and the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II currently serves as the Head of State of 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.
- These Queen-led nations are known as “Commonwealth Realms,” which are distinct from the broader 54-nation Commonwealth of nations that have some connection to Great Britain, but do not necessarily have the Queen as Head of State.
- The Queen’s role as Head of State is largely ceremonial, and she is represented in each country by a governor-general who carries out the Queen’s day-to-day duties.
- The last country to remove the Queen as Head of State was Mauritius in 1992, and other Caribbean countries that have removed the Queen are Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica, which all removed the Queen in the 1970s.
- Participation in the Commonwealth is voluntary, and in response to Barbados’s decision to remove the Queen, Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “This is a matter for the government and people of Barbados.”
“The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind,” Barbados Governor General Sandra Mason said in a speech on behalf of Prime Minister Mia Mottley, which announced the country’s decision to remove the Queen. “Barbadians want a Barbadian Head of State. This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving.”
Barbados first gained independence in 1966 after being under British rule, and the country’s severance of ties to the Queen will coincide with its 55th anniversary of independence next year. The country has discussed renouncing its constitutional monarchy since the 1970s, Barbados Today reports. The country’s announcement also comes as Britain’s colonial past has come under greater scrutiny amid the current racial justice movement, as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle urged the UK to reckon with the “wrongs” of its colonial involvement at a session of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust in July. “When you look across the Commonwealth, there is no way that we can move forward unless we acknowledge the past,” Prince Harry said.
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Barbados’ announcement could pave the way for other Commonwealth Realm nations to renounce the monarchy. Jamaica has previously discussed leaving the monarchy, but experts say the country is held back by high constitutional thresholds that would make doing so difficult. Australians voted to keep the Queen in a 1999 referendum, but more recent polling shows that replacing the Queen with an Australian Head of State may now have majority support. A March Research.co survey in Canada found that 32% of Canadians would prefer an elected Head of State while only 27% prefer to keep the monarchy, but a slim majority—52%—said they expect Canada will “definitely” or “probably” still be a monarchy 20 years from now.