With republicans at the gates, Charles III meets imperial envoys


King Charles III hosted his first reception on Sunday for representatives of the Commonwealth realms, the 14 former colonies he rules over alongside Great Britain – at least for now.

As republican movements gain ground from Australia to Antigua, one of the 73-year-old’s biggest challenges will be how to keep together the global family his late mother Queen Elizabeth II loved so much.

On his third full day as monarch, the king received Patricia Scotland, the secretary-general of the 56-nation Commonwealth, at Buckingham Palace for a reception with high commissioners of the realm and their husbands.

A few hours earlier, Australia and New Zealand had officially named Charles king, following a pompous proclamation in London on Saturday.

But while the lavish tribute to “Mama Queen” — as she was called in Papua New Guinea — left no doubt about the widespread love for his mother, there are questions as to whether Charles can inspire the same devotion.

The Caribbean island nation of Barbados became the last nation to declare itself a republic last year, and others are moving in that direction.

A significant proportion of Australians want to become a republic, including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, but for now he is concentrating on mourning the late Queen.

“The most important thing is to remember the moment we are in now,” he told Britain’s Sky News, ruling out a referendum in his first term.

Shortly after Charles was appointed King of Antigua and Barbuda, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said he planned to hold a republic referendum “within the next three years”.

“This is not an act of hostility or any difference between Antigua and Barbuda and the monarchy, but it is the final step to complete that circle of independence,” he told ITV News.

Republicans are in the minority in Canada, but a poll last April found that 67 percent were against Charles succeeding his mother.

Calls for change are also mounting in Jamaica, where Prime Minister Andrew Holness told Charles’ son William in March that the nation was “moving forward” as an independent country.

William’s tour of the Caribbean with his wife Kate was met with protests and demands for the monarchy to apologize and pay reparations for its role in the slave trade.

‘In my blood’

The empires belong to a total of 56 mostly former British colonies that are part of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association that includes 2.5 billion people around the world.

Togo and Gabon became the newest members this year, despite never having been under British rule.

Most of the others gained independence after Queen Elizabeth II took the throne in 1952, and many have since thrown off the monarchy, but she saw the Commonwealth as a way to keep the diverse nations together.

At a 2018 summit, Commonwealth leaders confirmed that Charles would follow her as head of the organization when she died.

He has already laid the groundwork, having visited 45 of the 56 countries so far and represented his mother at the most recent summit of heads of government in Rwanda in June.

There, he addressed the issue of republicanism directly, telling an audience of presidents and prime ministers that it was “purely a matter for each member state to decide”.

At the 2013 Sri Lanka summit, where he also stood up for the Queen, he recalled a life spent as part of what the Commonwealth “family” said was “in my blood”.

He recalled how former Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah, who visited the Queen’s Balmoral Scottish estate as a boy, gave him a bow and a set of arrows which he promptly fired into the trees.

Charles also described water skiing with the former Prime Minister of Malta, Dom Mintoff, and dancing with the wife of the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Lynden Pindling, at an independence ball in 1973.

Such ties can ensure that, even if they throw off the monarchy, the rich will remain in the Commonwealth.

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron noted that, like his mother, Charles is an “excellent diplomat”.

“I saw him in action at Commonwealth government meetings and he knows each leader personally. He deals with them brilliantly,” he told the BBC.

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