King Charles set to be the last sovereign for many, expert says

King Charles will likely be the last British monarch in some of the overseas realms still considering him their head of state, a historian believes. Andrew Walkling, Professor at Binghamton University in New York, thinks this is “inevitable”, adding having a British monarch leading countries overseas is increasingly being perceived by many as a “relic of a past notion”. It comes as republican sentiment is on the rise in Australia, which has recently decided to ditch the King from its banknotes.

Asked whether King Charles is facing a wave of republicanism in the overseas realms, Professor Walking told “It does actually seem to me as though there is a growing desire to eliminate the monarchy in overseas territories and that includes both larger countries like Australia and also very small nations like some of the Caribbean ones.

“That is all about the legacy of colonialism. Their connection to Britain was rooted in the imperial project abroad. I think a lot of people are starting to think, ‘this is a relic of our past time and a past way of thinking about things and we need to move on’.”

He said the decision to become republics would signal these countries are “imagining a new future for themselves” rather than a desire to stop having a relationship with Britain as they still want to hold on to and treasure.

The expert continued: “Many people would argue that the legacy of colonialism needs to be set aside and therefore to have Charles III as King of Papua New Guinea is a bizarre concept. In that respect, I think it’s likely that that will continue to develop in that way and that Charles will be the last King of many of these places before they become republics.”

And the wave towards republicanism doesn’t have anything to do with the popularity or personality of King Charles, the professor noted.

Asked whether the accession to the throne of Prince William – a younger and more popular royal than his father – could push nations to maintain a British monarch as their head of state, Professor Walkling said: “I think it is inevitable that the British monarchy will cease to be associated with at least the vast majority of overseas independent nations. So we may never get to William succeeding to Charles as head of state in any of those realms.”

The current Prince of Wales would not be able to reflect the national psyche in, for example, Jamaican or Australia in the same way a head of state born and bred in these nations could, Professor Walkling said.

In the UK, on the other hand, the British monarch is vital for both the national pride and national psyche, the expert added.

He continued: “That’s a little bit less applicable to, you know, Canadians, Australians, Jamaicans, they have a better justification for saying, well, it’s not really our national psyche.”

Australia, which already held a referendum on the monarchy in 1999 during which the majority of voters decided to retain Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, is one of the overseas realms considered to be swaying towards republicanism.

Following his election as Prime Minister in the spring of 2022, Australian Labor leader Anthony Albanese appointed Matt Thistlethwaite MP Assistant Minister for the Republic, tasked with the Government’s policy of establishing a republic.

Philip Benwell, National Chair of the Australian Monarchist League, told earlier this year his association is already preparing for a referendum on the monarchy, which they expect the country’s Government may trigger as early as in 2025.

In April last year, however, a spokesperson for the Labor Party said their priority for the first term in Government would be to hold a referendum on “Constitutional recognition and a Voice to Parliament for First Nations people” rather than on the monarchy.

But the Government’s decision to give the Reserve Bank the go-ahead to honour First Australians’ culture and personalities on the new A$5 banknotes rather than replace the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II with that of King Charles III further fuelled the fears of monarchists Down Under.

Professor Cindy McCreery, a historian specialising in the British Royal Family at Sydney University, is among those who believe a republic in Australia will become a reality within years.

She told “I think we are increasingly thinking about our future and part of that is about our indigenous people in our relationship with our past. But that does also reflect our relationship with Britain. So I do think we’ll see a republic in the future in my lifetime.”

Dr McCreery partially credits Australia’s change in demographics as well as the recent negative publicity surrounding the Royal Family for the move towards republicanism being experienced Down Under.

Referring to the public rift between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Firm detailed by Prince Harry in his memoir Spare, Dr McCreery said: “It has caused people to think ‘is this really the best we can do?’ Some people are thinking, the Royal Family is just fighting with one another – how can they possibly put our interests, as head of state, is that really going to work for us?”

Among other countries to keep an eye on when it comes to the decision of ditching the Crown is Jamaica, as in the midst of the now Prince and Princess of Wales’ tour of Caribbean countries in March 2022, its Prime Minister Andrew Holness informed William and Kate of his Government’s intention to abolish the monarchy in the nation by 2025.

Barbados already took the plunge in November 2021, when it became the world’s youngest republic following a ceremony held in Bridgetown and attended by the then heir to the throne, Charles.

While Barbados was the first of the former overseas realms to take a similar decision in almost three decades, Professor Walkling believes that, if a couple more nations were to follow its example in the near future, there may be a “domino effect”.

Still, Professor Walkling doesn’t believe the realms leaving the Crown would impact negatively the image of the Royal Family and the monarchy.

He said: “From my perspective, as a historian, I don’t think there’s a negative impact for the monarchy, because ultimately, it’s the British monarchy.”

Moreover, Barbados has demonstrated ditching the monarchy doesn’t necessarily mean turning the relationship with Britain sour.

The Caribbean country decided to remain a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, a political association led until her death by Elizabeth II and since September 8 by King Charles.

Speaking further about the future of the monarchy, Professor Walkling theorised the UK Crown has two very distinguished “facets” – the imperial monarchy and the national monarch – which he believes are two coexisting realities, both currently led by King Charles, with “different reasons for existing” as well as two different “potential fates”.

Referring to this model he theorised, Professor Walkling spoke of the imperial monarchy as a relic “not really well suited to the modern era”.

On the other hand, he believes the constitutional monarchy in the UK “remains relevant”, and said having a sovereign acting as a unifying figurehead above the day-to-day politics actually benefits the nation “despite the cost and the potential for occasional scandals”.

He added: “Part of what makes the British monarchy a significant institution is its ability to harness ceremony and symbol for national purposes. I think the imperial side of it is going to dissipate, but for national purposes, symbolism is important.

“And that leads us to the coming Coronation. Yes, it’s true, people might ask, ‘Oh, why are we wasting all this money on the Coronation?’ but we waste money on all sorts of symbolic things in our societies.

“And as I understand it, Charles is planning to make the Coronation a little bit more inclusive than has been the case in the past. So, it’s actually an opportunity as much as anything else. It’s an opportunity for the monarchy, and Britain, to show itself to best effect.”

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