The British Empire, which once claimed that the sun would not set on its territory, has lost large parts of its over the past few decades, and there are vehement speculations that Charles III could fail to retain the remaining one. When Elizabeth II came to the throne in 1952, the British Empire was shrinking, and the population living in British colonies dropped from 700 million to 5 million between 1945 and 1965. During her long 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth worked hard to preserve the remnants of Britain’s colonial heritage, and in this regard, the Commonwealth bloc was the most important legacy to which Elizabeth II turned her attention.
The Commonwealth of Nations bloc consists of 56 countries, most of which are former territories of the British Empire. It has a population of about 2.5 billion, and its aggregate gross domestic product of them is about 1.3 trillion dollars. Of the 42 microscopic countries of the world, 32 countries are members of this bloc. Among these 56 countries, 19 territories still recognize the British King and Queen as the head of their state; amongst which there are important countries such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and smaller ones such as New Guinea and several Pacific and Caribbean islands.
By presenting a charismatic and symbolic image of herself and through the channel of establishing personal relations with the leaders of the Commonwealth of Nations, Elizabeth II preserved her enormous capacity in the service of British soft power and global influence. However, in 2021, Barbados officially declared a republic by severing its ties with the Queen of England as the country’s highest official. Immediately after the death of the queen, sharp criticisms from the political forces in the Commonwealth countries were directed at her and the institution of the monarchy in Britain. For example, “Economic Freedom Fighters”, an apolitical party in South Africa, announced in a statement that it will not condole the death of the Queen, because, during her long reign, Elizabeth II never expressed regret for the cruelty that Britain levied on the indigenous people of Africa.
In addition, the memories of British colonization, resulting in a lucrative business for London, have been graved in the minds of Jamaican people. In fact, it goes without saying that in spite of all the efforts of Queen Elizabeth, the number of countries which recognized her ad the head of their state shrank in recent years and this process will continue. There is no certainty regarding the adherence of public opinion in these countries to the institution of monarchy, and many in these countries are against the presence of a non-resident head of state and do not want a king to be the head of state of their democratic country.
Australia has been holding a referendum on becoming a republic since 1999, and the Prime Minister of New Zealand has openly stated that he expects the country to become a republic within the next few decades. In addition, according to the latest polls, 51% of Canadians are against a British head of state.
All that was said reveals that as the inheritor of the British monarchy, Charles III faces innumerable challenges arising from the waves of independence and republicanism of the remaining territories of the British Empire. Apart from the criticism of the way the monarchy treated these territories during the 70 years of Elizabeth’s reign, Charles III lacks the charismatic personality of his mother, and this makes his job of preserving her legacy more difficult.
In addition, Charles is exposed to accusations of moral corruption, sex, and racism, and his impartiality in governance matters is seriously questioned. Charles is accused of receiving 3 million euros from the former prime minister of Qatar and also 1 million euros from Osama bin Laden’s family for his royal charity. In addition, his homosexuality has been proven.
In addition to the inappropriate character of Charles and his low popularity, there are many other reasons that provoke criticism and enmity with the British monarchy among the Commonwealth countries. The monarchy in Britain has never apologized for the dark era of colonialism and the slave trade in the former British colonial countries and has not paid any compensation to the Caribbean countries for the injustices inflicted on them. Moreover, Britain never apologized for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in India and also for the systematic Bengal famine of 1943, for which the British government and Churchill himself were responsible.
The level of public anger against the institution of the British monarchy during Prince William’s recent visit to the Caribbean countries was met with strong public opinion protests in the host countries.
It should be said that the dissatisfaction of other Commonwealth countries with Britain stems from the economic disparities among the members of this bloc. In this regard, Mahathir Muhammad once said in an outspoken criticism that all the wealth of the Commonwealth is in the possession of only 4 countries. In fact, there is no equality and balance between the Commonwealth countries in terms of mutual market access, investment and trade volume.
In addition to the incompatibilities of the Commonwealth bloc countries, there are many doubts regarding Charles’ ability to maintain the British union. The recent economic crisis will also give new strength to independence movements in Scotland, and in such a situation, it will be very difficult for Charles to remain neutral. The results of the latest census in Northern Ireland show that, for the first time, they will be able to form a pro-independence Sinn Fein government at the next election.
Therefore, the coming months will be difficult for Charles III, since he is faced with the difficult mission of maintaining the British union and maintaining the integrity of the Commonwealth bloc. If Charles does not pay more attention to the demands of those seeking independence and republicans, he certainly cannot unilaterally use the capacity of the Commonwealth bloc to strengthen Britain’s global influence and soft power, which will be a big problem for Britain’s damaged economy and will provide the necessary conditions for a further shrinking of the Commonwealth bloc and strengthen independence-seeking tendencies in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
To put it in a nutshell, it seems that the further decline of the British Empire is doomed and Charles III will not be able to prevent or even postpone it. In addition, he will soon experience the full realization of Brexit; an issue even her mother was not able to solve.