Politics / The Royal Family

His Other Realms: The Future of the British Monarchy Abroad

When I was in the 4th Grade, I walked into my classroom every day and saw the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II at the front. She was a constant presence in that classroom, and so was her gaze, no matter where I was. When my grandmother took the Oath of Citizenship, she swore her allegiance to the Queen. Yet what I described did not occur in London, Manchester, or Leeds, but in Toronto, Canada, 3,550 miles from Buckingham Palace. While much of the focus following the death of Queen Elizabeth II was on Great Britain, she was the head of state for 14 other nations beyond the British Isles, including Canada. While the monarchy will endure in Britain under King Charles III, Queen Elizabeth’s passing signaled that it is time for countries beyond the UK to break away from the British monarchy.

I didn’t hate the Queen. I don’t hate King Charles or his family (except Prince Andrew). But the institution they represent is a vestige of colonial authority and legitimizes colonial ideas. And Charles himself could not be more out of touch with the nations of which he recently became head of state of. Charles visited Canada earlier this year to meet with its indigenous peoples who suffered under the residential school system, the purpose of which, according to Sir John A. McDonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada, was to “take the Indian out of the child.” Children were abused mentally, physically, and sexually. Thousands would die of various causes in what was, by no exaggeration, a cultural genocide. One survivor, Chief Mi’sel Joe, reported what Charles said: “I hope we weren’t too bad on you.” Mi’sel Joe would not get a chance to respond to Charles. 

Charles is unwilling to confront and comprehend what had happened in Canada in the name of the monarchy. It was clear from his comments that he did not understand the plight of the indigenous people and the horrors of the residential schools. He does not understand the political or social changes happening in response to the residential school system, either. Yet he serves as the Canadian head of state. And while the Catholic Church ran most Residential Schools, the Anglican Church ran around three dozen residential schools, giving up control of the last one in 1969. Charles is now the head of the Anglican Church, and while he acknowledged the past of residential schools, he hasn’t apologized for the atrocities carried out in them. Neither did his predecessor.

The cost of maintaining the monarchy serves little purpose. According to CTV News, the same trip to Canada this year by the King, then Prince of Wales, cost Canadian taxpayers at least 1.4 million Canadian Dollars. At the time of writing, that is equivalent to just over 1 million US dollars. Overall that cost is higher. According to The Monarchist League of Canada, a pro-monarchy group, the monarchy cost Canadians 58.75 million Canadian dollars in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, equivalent to a little over 43 million US dollars at the time of writing. While that may not be a significant amount of money in the budget, it is still $58.75 million too much. Why should Canadians fund a monarchy that neither represents them nor understands the history of the country or the current political climate? If the King, living thousands of miles away, cannot understand the plight of the residential school system, why should Canadians pay him anything? It would have been better to spend the $58.75 million improving education, water quality, and social services for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people. And while that may only help one First Nation, Metis, or Inuit community, it is still one more indigenous community.

Other countries likewise have the British Monarchy linked to heinous acts in their history. When Prince William and Princess Kate visited the Caribbean earlier this year, they faced many protests for the visits; countries like Jamaica were subjected to the horrors of the British slave trade.  In the 17th century, King Charles II granted the Royal African Company, the purpose of which was to bring enslaved people from Africa to the Americas, a charter. King James II, brother to Charles II, would eventually become its governor, meaning that the British monarchy profited from slavery directly. And the Royal African Company was not a small operation by any means: between 1651 and 1700, The Royal African Company transported 132,676 people across the Atlantic, with 127,913 slaves transported to Caribbean nations such as Jamaica. These values only represent the number of slaves we have records for. 

The Royal African Company/The British monarchy continued to be involved in the Slave Trade until 1731. Many people in Jamaica descended from enslaved people. When the Slave Trade ended in 1807, almost 2 million people had been brought from Africa to Jamaica. It took another 21 years before slavery was abolished in Jamaica entirely in 1838. While the monarchy has acknowledged the relationship between itself and the slave trade, it has yet to formally apologize or participate in meaningful action to repair its relationship with Jamaica and other Caribbean nations.  

Jamaica has already started the process to become a Republic and get rid of the monarchy by 2025. A referendum is already being planned and if a majority of the population supports the removal of the King as head of state and Parliament passes a  two-thirds majority vote, Jamaica will become a Republic. Many other Caribbean nations are likely to follow; Barbados abolished the monarchy back in 2021. These countries are forging their own paths by trying to cut their direct link to the British monarch once and for all. 

But other countries, like Canada, are more likely to continue with the institution. In Canada, getting rid of the monarch as head of state requires not only the approval of the House of Commons and the Senate, but also all 10 Canadian provinces voting to approve the change. In some provinces, such as Quebec, the population would likely support the monarch’s removal. The current government of Quebec, led by premier François Legault and the Coalition Avenir Québec, passed a bill making the part in the Oath of office to King Charles and his heirs optional for politicians, which was adopted unanimously. Additionally, an Ipsos survey asking Canadians whether they should sever ties with the crown after the death of Queen Elizabeth II found that 79 percent of Quebecois were in favor of doing so. But the fact that one province can prevent the monarch’s removal will certainly prevent King Charles from being removed as head of state. There isn’t enough National Support for abolishing the monarchy either. The same Ipsos poll found that only 54 percent of Canadians support severing ties with the crown in Canada. Attitudes towards the monarchy can change. Australia famously underwent a strong Republican movement in the 1980s, and while Republicanism has become less prominent, it could undoubtedly resurge.

As the populations of countries such as Canada and Australia become more diverse in terms of ethnicity and origin, the attachment to the monarchy shrinks further. In the 2021 Census, 23 percent of the population of Canada were immigrants at some point in their lifetime., which represents an increase from 20.6 percent of the population who were immigrants in the 2011 Census. And these immigrants are overwhelmingly not European. The overall share of immigrants from Europe in the 2021 Census was 10.1 percent. In 1971, the overall percentage of immigrants from Europe was 61.6 percent. These populations are more disconnected from the idea of a monarchy. Today, new Canadian citizens are allowed to disavow the message of the Oath of Citizenship, specifically the part about swearing allegiance to the monarch by handing in a letter to the officiating judge after the ceremony. This practice was made legal by an Ontario court in 2014 after immigrants challenged the nature of the Oath, specifically the part about the monarch. While the court ruled that it was still necessary to pledge allegiance to the monarch, it said that the Oath was merely an acknowledgment of Canada’s governmental system rather than an implicit acceptance of it, allowing immigrants to disavow the Oath. Dror Bar-Natan, an Israeli-born mathematician and one of the people behind the challenge to the Oath, said that he found it similar to hazing. He further argued that the Oath was an imposition of views opposite to the values the country is supposed to represent: “I don’t think it is part of Canada to impose political speech on others. To impose opinions on others.” Bar-Natan’s experience highlights how immigrant populations are disconnected from the monarchy, going against their values. Bar-Natan was the first to disavow the Oath as an immigrant in 2015. He certainly will not be the last.

Younger generations also have less attachment to the monarchy than older generations. In a Nanos poll conducted for CTV News between September 30 and October 3, only 13 percent of Canadians between the age of 18 and 34 thought that King Charles would do a good job, while 29 percent thought he would do a poor job. Older populations who remember the monarchy are more likely to support its continuation. 41.5 percent of respondents over the age of 55 expected that the King would do a good or very good job, while only 12 percent over the age of 55 thought the King would do a poor or very poor job. But as newer generations become a larger proportion of the population, support will likely dwindle in this age group.

The passing of Queen Elizabeth marked an end of an era. Countries outside Britain should move away from British colonial history and form their own paths. The monarchy is separated from the political and social aspects of the countries it is supposed to represent. And if The King cannot understand the political and social changes in places where he is head of state, and the monarchy cannot understand their colonial history, then The King should not be head of state. While the monarchy is likely to endure abroad in countries like Canada, it is weakening. There are countries like Jamaica that will likely abolish the monarchy in the next ten years. And perhaps within our own lifetimes, it will cease to exist in any countries outside of the UK.