At its height, the British Empire’s rule oversaw 412 million people — or around 23% of the world’s population — spanning from North America to Oceania. It was once said that the sun never sets on the British Empire, but as years passed, the vastness of the monarchy’s global reach began to decline. Queen Elizabeth’s 70-year reign saw the dawn of the Commonwealth of Nations, with many countries gaining independence from the monarchy. So as King Charles III ascends the throne, what exactly is he king of? Yahoo News explains.
- Does the sun set on the British Empire? When Queen Elizabeth II took the throne, Imperial Britain was beginning to change into what we now know as the Commonwealth of Nations. So now that King Charles III has taken the reins, what is he actually King of? Globally, a lot less than his mother when she became queen.
At its height in 1920, the British Commonwealth stretched all around the world. But around the time Queen Elizabeth II was born, the crown's reach started to shrink. Then in 1949, the British Commonwealth became the Commonwealth of Nations and members were no longer required to swear loyalty to the monarchy.
Many countries would break away completely, while others gained independence from the monarchy, but remained part of the Commonwealth. A few that left later rejoined, and a handful of countries with no previous connection to Britain would sign on to be part of the Commonwealth. But by the end of Queen Elizabeth II's reign, the monarchy's reach outside of the United Kingdom had dwindled with only a handful of countries like Jamaica, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Canada keeping her as their head of state. And now that there's a new King, could his realm shrink even further?
LIAM J. LIBURD: As we saw with Prince William and Princess Kate's Caribbean tour earlier this year, I think things already are changing.
- Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's Caribbean tour perhaps has not turned out quite as they'd hoped.
- At one of the first places William and Kate were supposed to visit, protests forced the couple to cancel.
- Prince William, the future head of the royal family, answering for past wrongs, but stopping short of a full apology.
LIAM J. LIBURD: There's no other way of putting it. Britain grew rich off Caribbean slavery. And I think there's an appetite both in the Caribbean and in Britain I think, to confront honestly and openly the very reasons actually for Britain's ties to all these different countries. I mean, to think about the Commonwealth at all, think about it critically and to think about accurately really involves grappling with the history of Empire.
- Since April, six Caribbean nations have been in talks to cut ties with the British monarchy, removing the sovereign as their head of state. Two months later, Scotland's first minister proposed a date for a referendum on independence, while there are talks of a possible reunification between Northern Ireland and the Southern Republic. So by the time Prince William inherits the crown, he might be the King of even less.