The Commonwealth Realm: History, Members, and Origins

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The Commonwealth Realm

The Commonwealth Realm is a group of 15 sovereign states that are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. These states have Queen Elizabeth II as their reigning constitutional monarch and share the same royal line of succession. They are part of the Commonwealth and were formerly part of the British Empire. The Commonwealth of Nations itself is an intergovernmental organization of 53 member states, most of which were territories of the former British Empire.

The British Empire

The British Empire comprised dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom.

Were All Countries in the Commonwealth Former British Colonies?

Commonwealth members are a diverse group. The world’s largest and smallest, richest and poorest countries make up the Commonwealth. They are home to two billion citizens of all faiths and ethnicities – over half of whom are 25 or under. Member countries span six continents and oceans:

  • Africa (18)
  • Asia (8)
  • The Americas (2)
  • The Caribbean (12)
  • Europe (3)
  • The South Pacific (10)

Origins and Foundation

1884: Lord Rosebery (later British PM) calls Empire a 'Commonwealth of Nations' whilst visiting Australia.   • 1887: First Colonial Conference for consultation between Britain and its colonies. • 1926: The Balfour Declaration states formally what was already in practice: that the Dominions of the British Empire (Australia, Canada, Irish Free State, Newfoundland, New Zealand and South Africa) were autonomous and equal in stature with each other and with England. The British Commonwealth of Nations is created.  • 1930: First British Empire Games held in Hamilton, Canada.  • 1931: The Statute of Westminster gives legal status to the independence of the Dominions. • 1949: Beginning of the Modern Commonwealth. Britain begins to grant independence to its colonies, but wants to maintain bonds through the Commonwealth. The London Declaration allows republics (e.g. India) to retain membership, in exchange for acknowledging King George VI (NOT the British crown) as Head of the Commonwealth.  

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