Queen Elizabeth’s Commonwealth and the future of its nations: The shrinking realm

Six years after the devastation of World War I, Britain announced that each member of the Empire would be seen as equal. This meant that the monarchy and its Parliament had no power over the domestic and foreign policies of these “Dominions.”

At its height, the British Empire’s rule oversaw 531 million people — over three continents spanning from North America to Oceania. It was once said that the sun never set on the British Empire, but as years passed, the monarchy’s global reach began to decline.

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After World War II, the British Empire would continue to contract, as countries under its colonial rule fought for and gained their independence. In 1949, the British Commonwealth of Nations would no longer ask members to swear allegiance to the crown, and all nations under the umbrella of the association would simply be known as the Commonwealth of Nations.

Upon Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne in 1952, the Commonwealth had already lost Ireland, in 1948. Eire gained its autonomy in 1921 after 800 years of British involvement, leaving only the six counties in Northern Ireland, of the 32 counties on the island, as part of the United Kingdom.

During her coronation speech in 1953, the new monarch acknowledged and praised Britain’s imperial past. “I have behind me not only the splendid traditions and the annals of more than a thousand years, but the living strength and majesty of the Commonwealth and Empire,” she said.

Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-serving sovereign, was on the throne seven years longer than Queen Victoria, her great-great grandmother, who oversaw the expansion of Britain’s colonial possessions.

“[The] Queen’s reign is the kind of grand rebranding for the British Empire, which was originally kind of built on an ideology that dictated that white people and their settler descendants would be in charge,” Dr. Liam Liburd, assistant professor of Black British history at Durham University in England, told Yahoo News.

“The development of the Commonwealth after the Queen’s coronation in 1953 can be seen as a kind of consolation prize for the British Empire.”

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