Commonwealth looks set to shrink after queen's death, under Charles

Queen Elizabeth devoted much of her reign to preserving the Commonwealth. Most expect this grouping to shrink under her son Charles.

LONDON — The prime minister of the Bahamas had just signed the condolence book for Queen Elizabeth II when he made an announcement that would not have been music to the dead monarch’s ears.

Prime Minister Phillip Davis said he intended to hold a referendum to remove Elizabeth’s son and successor, King Charles III, as the official head of state in the Bahamas and turn his country, which has been independent since 1973, into a republic.

“The only challenge with us moving to a republic is that I can’t, as much as I would wish to do it, I cannot do it without your consent,” Davis told reporters Tuesday. “I will have to have a referendum and the Bahamian people will have to say to me, ‘Yes.’”

Davis' decision and the Bahamas itself are a product of the empire, which at its height saw Britain's monarch rule over a quarter of the world’s population. It was the largest empire in history with colonies and protectorates around the world that included what’s now Australia, Canada, South Africa, Pakistan and India.

Elizabeth, who died last week at age 96, devoted much of her reign to preserving and reinforcing ties with what’s called the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 56 independent states, most of them former British colonies. As the monarch, she was the symbolic head of the association.

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