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Which countries have the Queen as their head of state?

Queen Elizabeth II being greeted by citizens in Barbados in 1977.
Queen Elizabeth II will no longer be the head of state in Barbados (Picture: Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

Barbados has announced plans to transform into a republic and remove Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state by November 2021.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley said it was time to ‘fully leave our colonial past behind.’

Barbados is not the first Caribbean country to transform into a republic: Guyana did it in 1970, Trinidad and Tobago followed suit in 1976, and Dominica in 1978.

The Queen is currently the formal head of state in 16 countries.

In which countries is Queen Elizabeth II head of state?

Countries that have Queen Elizabeth II, or any British monarch, as the head of state, are in the Commonwealth realm.

Each Commonwealth realm country functions independently from the UK, and the Queen has no real power there.

Technically, she may perform such functions as issuing executive orders, commanding the military forces, and creating and administering laws – however, this never occurs as her role is purely ceremonial.

Queen Elizabeth II.
Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state in 16 countries (Picture: Getty Images)

The monarch will perform ceremonial duties in the Commonwealth realms to mark historically significant events. She also tours the realms every five or six years to meet with leaders and greet citizens.

The Commonwealth realms have kept Queen Elizabeth II as their formal head due to tradition and international unity. However, some critics in the Commonwealth realms have raised concern with the colonial history that Britain shares with these countries.

As of 2020, there are 16 Commonwealth realms:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Grenada
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • Papau New Guinea
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tuvalu
  • United Kingdom

Why is Barbados removing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state?

By November 2021, Barbados will be a Republic and thus remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley said it was time to ‘fully leave our colonial past behind’.

She said: ‘Barbadians want a Barbadian Head of State.

 The Queen and Prince Philip driving through Barbados waving to the crowds in 1966.
Barbados wants to ‘fully leave our colonial past behind’ (Picture: Keystone/Getty Images)

‘This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving.

‘Hence, Barbados will take the next logical step toward full sovereignty and become a Republic by the time we celebrate our 55th Anniversary of Independence.’

Barbados gained independence in 1966, however Queen Elizabeth II has remained as the formal head of state.

The other countries that have removed the British monarch from head of state are Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Pakistan, Ceylon, South Africa, Fiji, The Gambia, Ghana, Malawi, Malta, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanganyika, and Uganda.

What changes will occur in Barbados when it becomes a republic?

Barbados is currently in the process of planning its reformation, and so post-monarchy Barbados remains something of a mystery.

A republic is a form of government in which the country is considered a ‘public matter’, rather than being the property of a ruler or monarch.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley could potentially become the new head of state, which would make it easier for her to directly pass laws. However, the country might opt for a head of state who is neutral and exists outside politics.

The US, for example, has a constitutional republic in which elected individuals ensure that the President is held accountable and is required to act in a manner that is constitutional and in the best interests of the country.

MORE: Barbados to remove Queen as head of state as it ‘leaves colonial past behind’

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