Is the End in Sight? The Monarchy and Commonwealth Realms

When Barbados severed its constitutional links with the British monarch in November 2021, press reports hummed with claims that the Commonwealth was 'on a knife edge'. This public narrative was sharply at odds with Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley's firm statement that Barbados remains committed to the Commonwealth. This apparent discrepancy revealed yet again the lack of public understanding about the 'divisible Monarch': that Queen Elizabeth II is the ceremonial head of the Commonwealth as a multilateral organisation of 54 states while, in a separate capacity, she remains constitutional head of state of 15 Commonwealth realms.

This seminar considered the enduring constitutional links between Britain and its former imperial possessions which have chosen to keep the 'British' monarch as head of state. It discusses republican movements across Commonwealth realms, and the likelihood that the 'divisible monarchy' will not last beyond this Elizabethan age.

Speakers included:

  • Professor Philip Murphy (Director of History & Policy):  author of Monarchy and the End of Empire (2013). Co-investigator on The Visible Crown: Queen Elizabeth II and the Caribbean.
  • Professor Anne Twomey (U/Sydney Law School): author of The Chameleon Crown: the Queen and her Australian Governors (2006) and The Veiled Sceptre: Reserve Powers of Heads of State in Westminster Systems (2018).
  • Professor Cynthia Barrow-Giles (UWI Cave Hill): author of Living at the Borderlines: Issues in Caribbean Sovereignty and Development (2003) and a former member of the St. Lucia Constitution Reform Commission from 2005-2011. Co-investigator on Co-investigator on The Visible Crown: Queen Elizabeth II and the Caribbean.

Chaired by Dr Sue Onslow, Director, Institute of Commonwealth Studies .  

This session was a collaboration between the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and History & Policy.