Barbados is getting rid of the Queen. For some reason, the prime minister, Freundel Stuart, feels that the country’s head of state should not be a foreign white woman who has the job because of a history of conquest, who is also head of state for 15 other countries, including most of their near neighbours, and who last visited Barbados in 1989. Stuart promises to present a bill to remove her in time for next year’s 50th anniversary of Barbadian independence. If he does so, it is expected to pass.
To some extent it is easy to see why Britain keeps the Queen. She is British, after all. But what about Elizabeth II’s other queendoms? Might they be tempted to follow Barbados? Most Commonwealth countries have not kept the British monarch as head of state, and even those that have kept warm feelings may cool when Charles takes over. The list of candidates is: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, St Christopher and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
Among these, Jamaica could well be first to go republican, and should have beaten Barbados to it. The prime minster, Portia Simpson-Miller, vowed to do so before Jamaica’s own 50th anniversary of independence in 2012. The fact that she still hasn’t may be a sign that this kind of constitutional change is often more popular than practical.
In Canada, a poll in 2014 showed that, if there were to be a change in the constitution, the majority would prefer “a Canadian-born person chosen by Canadians” as head of state, although no such change looks imminent. Australia nearly embraced republicanism in a referendum in 1999, but 54.9% of those who voted chose otherwise. The difficulty in agreeing what should replace the Queen was part of the problem, and since then the question has faded from view a little. Last February, just 39% of those Australians polled wanted a republic. In Tuvalu, voters have twice chosen to keep the Queen, in 1986 and 2008.
Perhaps a smart outside bet might be New Zealand. Sentiment there is broadly in favour of keeping the Queen, but her supporters tend to be older. Nor has there been a referendum recently. Instead, there will be a binding vote next year on whether to drop the union jack from the country’s flag. If this stirs up some republican feeling, and if King Charles III makes a poor first impression, and if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stop having cute children ... well, you never know.