King’s coronation draws apathy, criticism in former colonies

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By Associated Press

LONDON: When King Charles III is crowned on Saturday, soldiers carrying flags from the Bahamas, South Africa, Tuvalu and beyond will march alongside British troops in a spectacular military procession in honor of the monarch.

For some, the scene will affirm the ties that bind Britain and its former colonies. But for many others in the Commonwealth, a group of nations mostly made up of places once claimed by the British Empire, Charles’ coronation is seen with apathy at best.

In those countries, the first crowning of a British monarch in 70 years is an occasion to reflect on oppression and colonialism’s bloody past. The displays of pageantry in London will jar especially with growing calls in the Caribbean to sever all ties with the monarchy.

“Interest in British royalty has waned since more Jamaicans are waking to the reality that the survivors of colonialism and the holocaust of slavery are yet to receive reparatory justice,” the Rev. Sean Major-Campbell, an Anglican priest in the Jamaican capital, Kingston, said.

The coronation is “only relevant in so far as it kicks us in the face with the reality that our head of state is simply so by virtue of biology,” Major-Campbell added.

As British sovereign, Charles is also head of state of 14 other countries, though the role is largely ceremonial. These realms, which include Australia, Canada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, represent a minority of the Commonwealth nations: most of the 56 members are republics, even if some still sport the Union Jack on their flags.

Barbados was the most recent Commonwealth country to remove the British monarch as its head of state, replacing Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II, with an elected president in 2021. The decision spurred similar republican movements in neighboring Jamaica, the Bahamas and Belize.

Last year, when Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness welcomed Prince William and his wife, Kate, during a royal tour of the Caribbean, he announced that his country intends to become fully independent. It made for an awkward photo with the royal couple, who were also confronted with protests calling for Britain to pay slavery reparations.

William, the heir to the throne, observed later in the same trip that the relationship between the monarchy and the Caribbean has evolved. The royal family will “support with pride and respect your decisions about your future,” he told a reception in the Bahamas.

Rosalea Hamilton, an advocate for changing Jamaica’s constitution to get rid of the royals, said she was organizing a coronation day forum to engage more Jamaicans in the process of political reform.

The timing of the event is meant to “signal to the head of state that the priority is to move away from his leadership, rather than focus on his coronation,” Hamilton said.

Two days ahead of Charles’ crowning, campaigners from 12 Commonwealth countries wrote to the monarch urging him to apologize for the legacies of British colonialism.

Among the signatories was Lidia Thorpe, an Australian senator, who said Thursday that Charles should “begin a process of repairing the damage of colonization, including returning the stolen wealth that has been taken from our people.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who will attend the coronation and join in an oath of allegiance to the king, favors ditching the monarchy, though he has ruled out holding a referendum during his currrent three-year term.

“I want to see an Australian as Australia’s head of state,” Albanese told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Buckingham Palace said last month that Charles supported research into the historical links between Britain’s monarchy and the transatlantic slave trade. The king takes the issue “profoundly seriously,” and academics will be given access to the royal collection and archives, the palace said.

In India, once the jewel of the British Empire, there’s scant media attention and very little interest in the coronation. Some people living in the country’s vast rural hinterlands may not have even heard of King Charles III.