Britain: Queen Elizabeth II

The monarch who lost sixteen realms.

She remains Head of the Commonwealth of Nations and Queen of sixteen independent sovereign nations, but during her reign Elizebeth II has been replaced by a President in sixteen other countries. Which were they, and when?
  • Pakistan in 1956
  • Ghana in 1960
  • South Africa in 1961
  • Tanganyika in 1962
  • Nigeria in 1963
  • Uganda in 1963
  • Kenya in 1964
  • Malawi in 1966
  • The Gambia in 1970
  • Guyana in 1970
  • Sierra Leone in 1971
  • Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1972
  • Malta in 1974
  • Trinidad and Tobago in 1976
  • Fiji in 1987
  • Mauritius in 1992.
As the Brits lost (or divested themselves of) their empire, independent countries understandably desired to have heads of state selected from a shortlist of their own. So the question persists, why is QEII still monarch of sixteen remaining nations like Canada, New Zealand, Jamaica, Australia and the Bahamas?

How much more stable have the latter group been compared to the former? Since abolishing the monarchy:

Pakistan has had two military coups and several coup attemps. It was under miltary rule from 1958 to 1971,1977 to 1988, and from 1999 to 2008.

Ghana has experienced four military coups and one further coup attempt.  It was under military rule from 1966 to 1969, 1975 to 1979 and from 1981 to 1993. Despite recent stella economic growth the country fails to deliver equality to its people.

South Africa perpetuated the divisive, abusive and corosive apartheid system of government (which had been initiated in 1948) until the collapse of the State Presidency and the holding of South Africa's first multi-racial elections in 1994.

Tanganyika forged a Union with neighbouring Zanzibar to create Tanzania in 1964. There was a coup attempt in 1982 which failed, thankfully.

Nigeria's first coup was in 1966, and there have been numerous dictatorships ever since. Full (and hopefully lasting) democracy was restored only in 1999.  And shortly after the monarchy was abolished the Biafra War (Nigerian Civil War) erupted, lasting three years, costing 3 million lives and causing a further 1 million civilian and military casualties.

Uganda has suffered from several bloody dictatorships, most memorably that of Idi Amin. Purportedly full democracy has been restored, although strong man Yoweri Museveni has held power since overthrowing Amin in 1986.

Kenya has remained relatively peaceful for most of the years since the monarchy was abolished. There was a coup attempt in 1982. Mwai Kibaki has held office since 2002, refusing to budge from the presidency after bitterly contested elections in 2007 when allegations of fraud and irregularities were followed by bloody civil unrest which claimed numerous lives and displaced many people.

Malawi has remained calm by comparison with many neighbours.

The Gambia had a reputation for virtuous multiculturalism, tranquility and democracy despite the same man, Dawda Jawara, running the place from independence until 1994. Jawara was overthrown in a coup by Yahya Jammeh who hangs on to the presidency until this day. Jammeh is likely to call a referendum soon on whether his country should adopt a monarchical system, with him crowned as King.

Guyana experienced several coup attempts from the ' 50s right up until 1999.  But these have been thwarted and despite questionable qualities of governance and a territorial dispute over Esequiba with Venezuela, the place has remained relatively calm for most of its post-monarchy history.

Sierra Leone is a byword for terrifying acts of inhumanity. This is the place where greed for 'blood diamonds' stoked a ghastly civil war which lasted from 1991 until 2002. During the war many thousands were maimed or killed. It ended only when the British came to defeat the RUF, all the principal leaders of which have subsequently been convicted of war crimes. Democracy has been restored, with Ernest Bai Koroma holding the presidency since winning tense elections in 2007. The next vote is due in 2012.

Ceylon, or Sri Lanka, has suffered a long and damaging civil war from 1983 to 2009 when the Sinhalese-dominated government defeated the Tigers of Tamil Eelam who had controlled most of northern and eastern Sri Lanka. Racial tensions are ongoing with the resulting migration of many refugees from the Tamil population. Local and international pressure for reconciliation continues.

Malta has remained a paragon of virtue by contrast, and has joined the EU.

Trinidad and Tobago suffered on coup attempt in 1990. But remains a model democracy.

Fiji suffered two coups in 1987, the second of which dumped the monarchy. There was a further military takeover in 2000 and another in 2006. Inter-ethnic strife between indiginous Melanesians and the large Indian population resulted in the emigration of many thousands of Indians, mostly to New Zealand or Australia.  Fiji was been suspended from the Commonwealth after failing to call elections in 2009, and the military men remain in power.

Mauritius is a stable, successful and democratic state with one of the highest GDPs in Africa.

The question as to why the Queen remains head of state of sixteen independent countries might be answered by the experiences of the majority of those listed above. 

Perhaps the Queen (through her Governor General) mostly brought stability, if for no other reason than by separating the head of state from the political fray.  That argument doesn't always hold true, it has to be said. As Muhammad Ali Jinnah proved in Pakistan when he allegedly told his preceding Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, "when I am Governor-General the Prime Minister will do what I tell him to."

In New Zealand, the prime minister offers a (very) short list of local worthies up for 'consideration' by the Queen. From these few carefully selected names the Queen chooses the next Governor-General of New Zealand. I presume the same system operates all over the globe. So, in effect, the PM chooses his or her own head of state. A rather unjustifiably strange system. In most of the world, this appears to work, by and large. Although, maybe adherance to democratic principles and the rule of law in those places has much to do with it?

All the listed realms to have ditched the monarchy were independent countries at the time. So, this twentieth century phenomenon pales by comparison to the inadequacies and blunders of past monarchs, for example:
  • It could be argued that Mary I ("Bloody Mary") did lasting damage by losing the port of Calais in 1558, a town whose name would be "graven" on her heart when she died, she's supposed to have said. If she had held onto it Napoleon couldn't have massed troops there for a planned invasion of England in 1805. And Britain would now control both ends of the Channel Tunnel.
  • George III lost the 13 American colonies in 1783. How many foreign wars, Vietnam a stark example, might have been averted if America had kept its monarchy after independence and the Queen had brought influence to bear via her Governor-General?
The Queen appears to maintain the principle that she's happy to remain the head of state of any realm until such time as the people decide otherwise. Sensible position to take. 

Notably in 2011 Canada resumed using the term "Royal" in the names of its airforce, navy and Mounted Police. Links with the monarchy are sometimes stronger than republicans (and Trudeau Liberals) would prefer, it seems.

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