The death of Queen Elizabeth II marks the start of King Charles III’s reign — but a number of countries that still consider the monarch to be head of state are already poised to turn their back on him.
At the time of her death on Thursday, the Queen was still head of state in 15 countries in the Commonwealth, including the United Kingdom.
The other countries include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Saint Lucia, Solomon Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
But in the wake of the beloved monarch’s death, questions are mounting as to which of those countries will decide to cut ties entirely and forge ahead as their own republics.
“There are already growing signs of discontent within the post-imperial Commonwealth of nations that retained the Queen as head of state,” Rutgers University historian Alastair Bellany told Rutgers Today.
“How many more of these nations, in the absence of the personal affection and admiration for Elizabeth II, will now choose to separate themselves from the crown and become republics?”
A number of countries, including Jamaica, Belize and the Bahamas, had already indicated plans to ditch the monarchy even prior to the Queen’s passing.
During a royal tour of the Caribbean in March, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness suggested to Prince William and his wife, Kate, that his country was “moving on” and intended to “fulfill our true ambitions and destiny as an independent, developed, prosperous country.”
Prince William also told a crowd during a stop in the Bahamas that the royal family would support whatever decision the island nation made in terms of ditching the monarchy.
“We support with pride and respect decisions about your future,” the Duke of Cambridge said. “Relationships evolve. Friendship endures.”
In the wake of the visit — which protesters had dubbed the “colonial tour” — Belize’s minister for constitutional and political reform, Henry Charles Usher, told the country’s parliament that the “decolonization process is enveloping the Caribbean region.”
“Perhaps it is time for Belize to take the next step in truly owning our independence. But it is a matter that the people of Belize must decide on,” he added.
Australia has had several debates on the matter and last held a referendum to weigh becoming a republic in 1999. At that time, 54.9% voted to keep the Queen as head of state.
The country, however, has seen a renewed push to ditch the monarchy after the new pro-republic prime minister, Anthony Albanese, created a new role of assistant minister for the republic after winning the election in May.
Still, the footprint of the monarchy had already shrunk dramatically since Queen Elizabeth II took the throne 70 years ago.
Seventeen countries removed Elizabeth as their head of state and replaced her with their own respective presidents during her reign. In total, Elizabeth was the figurehead of 32 different countries at various points.
Barbados became the first country in 30 years to replace the Queen as ruler last November. Prior to that, Mauritius became a republic in 1992 after Fiji made the move in 1987.
The head of state in a monarchy only exerts ceremonial authority, which means they essentially wield no real official power.
If any of the remaining 15 countries do decide to replace King Charles as their head of state, they can still remain part of the 56-nation Commonwealth, which is a voluntary association of countries that dates back to the British Empire.
The aim of the Commonwealth is to help countries “work together to pursue common goals that promote development, democracy and peace,” according to the association’s website.
Barbados, Mauritius and Fiji are among the countries that are now republics but are still connected to the Commonwealth.
Bellany, the Rutgers historian, predicted there also may be a “political reckoning” within the UK itself as Charles ascends to the throne.
“The modern monarchy is very much a national symbol, albeit one that has not always (or even often) accurately reflected the more complicated realities of the nation,” he said.
“At a time of deep social and economic crisis in Britain, we might also wonder whether a renewed focus on monarchy — a symbol of fixed hierarchy, inherited status, and deep privilege — will serve to distract or deflect from material problems, or will monarchy itself begin to feel like a jarring anachronism?”