Charles III Might Not Be King of Australia for Long, if Republicans Get Their Way

Her body barely had time to get cold in its Balmoral bedchamber before the first rumbling came from a former British colony that Queen Elizabeth II should be the last English monarch allowed to reign over a distant realm.Adam Bandt, leader of the opposition Greens party in Australia, used a tweeted message of condolence—“Rest in

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Her body barely had time to get cold in its Balmoral bedchamber before the first rumbling came from a former British colony that Queen Elizabeth II should be the last English monarch allowed to reign over a distant realm.

Adam Bandt, leader of the opposition Greens party in Australia, used a tweeted message of condolence—“Rest in Peace Queen Elizabeth II”—to call on his country to “move forward” and become a republic.

Bandt was quickly slapped down by Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, who told a radio station “Today is not a day for politics.”

But if Bandt’s timing was off, his political judgment was probably spot-on.

In her 7src years on the throne, as head of state in Australia just as in Britain, Elizabeth earned widespread respect, and even affection, among her “subjects” Down Under. Her portrait hangs in thousands of government offices, small-town police stations, and RSL social clubs around the country.

But that respect, inherited as a young princess and nurtured in 16 separate visits over the decades, might simply die with her. There’s little support for the monarchy as an institution, or for Charles III personally in Australia or the 14 other former colonies—including Canada, New Zealand, and Jamaica—where he now succeeds his mother as head of state.

In regular visits to Australia over his lifetime, Charles, now 73, will have heard the royal anthem—“God Save the Queen”—dozens of times. But he may never get to hear a rousing Aussie rendition of the country’s new royal anthem—“God Save the King.”

Officially, the machinery of succession is already in motion. Charles’ image will start appearing on Australia’s coinage from next year. Queen’s Counsels, as the top Australian lawyers are titled, have already become King’s Counsels. In due course, if nothing changes, Australian passports will be issued in his name, rather than hers.

But it will take an act of parliament to formally adopt Charles as head of state Down Under, and republicans might decide it is easier not to bother.

Despite slapping down Bandt for his crude politicking, Albanese is himself a committed republican who has appointed a minister with the express role of steering Australia toward a republic. The plan, had the queen lived, was to aim to push for a formal referendum in Albanese’s second term in office.

Australians were last given the chance to ditch the monarchy in a constitutional referendum held in 1999. Fifty-five percent voted to keep the queen as head of state and republicans came to agree that the cause would never be won during Elizabeth’s lifetime.

It was on her 21st birthday, on April 21, 1947, that Princess Elizabeth promised in a radio broadcast from Cape Town that her whole life, “whether it be long or short” would be devoted to the “great imperial family to which we all belong.”

And although the language changed, as Britain lost its empire, her personal promise was fulfilled. The Commonwealth, the grouping of former British colonies, was always close to the queen’s heart; indeed, she was the glue that has held it together.

Until Barbados declared itself a republic last year, the last Commonwealth country to do so was Mauritius in 1992. Jamaica is expected to follow suit by 2src25 and a number of other Caribbean countries might copy their example.

Officially, the royal family’s position has been that it is up to individual Commonwealth members to decide whether to become republics: as long as they remain committed members of the Commonwealth itself.

One of Australia’s most fervent republicans is former Prime Minister Paul Keating, who was dubbed the “Lizard of Oz” by the British tabloids after breaching protocol by touching the queen’s back during a royal visit.

In a tribute Friday, Keating was unstinting in his praise for the queen and her selfless service—but clear that, in historical terms, she was a one-off.

“She was an exemplar of public leadership, married for a lifetime to political restraint, remaining always, the constitutional monarch,” he wrote in a statement.

“In a 7src-year reign, she was required to meet literally hundreds of thousands of officials—presidents, prime ministers, ministers, premiers, mayors and municipal personalities. It was more than one person should ever have been asked to do.

“Her exceptionally long, dedicated reign is unlikely to be repeated; not only in Britain, but in the world generally.”

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