The Sovereign and the Commonwealth

Vernon Bogdanor

in The Monarchy and the Constitution

Published in print November 1997 | ISBN: 9780198293347
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598821 | DOI:
The Sovereign and the Commonwealth

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The sovereign's relationship with the Commonwealth derives from Britain's imperial history. For, nearly all of the members of the Commonwealth are formerly dependent territories of the Empire, which chose to cooperate voluntarily on a basis of full constitutional equality. Since 1953, the Crown has been divisible, and the Queen of Britain is now also Queen of 15 other Commonwealth monarchies, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, etc. In those countries, the functions of the sovereign are, in practice, undertaken by a Governor‐General, appointed by the sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister of the country concerned. But, since 1949, it has been possible for members of the Commonwealth to become republics, and the majority of the member states are now republics. They must, however, recognize the sovereign as `the symbol of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth’. But the position of Head of the Commonwealth is not an office but rather an expression of a symbolic character without any separate constitutional standing or capacity.

Keywords: British Empire; Commonwealth; constitution; constitutional monarchy; Governor‐General; Prime Minister; republics; symbolism

Chapter.  23100 words. 

Subjects: UK Politics

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