Commonwealth under Elizabeth II, 70 years without interruption

The sun never sets on Elizabeth II’s kingdom, according to the formula of her great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.

The British Empire and its associated territories, former powers (Elizabeth II is head of state of fifteen monarchies, a status unmatched in the world), still extends across five continents, despite decolonization, one of the major geopolitical upheavals of the XXe century.

Britannia Rules

To maintain close ties to its colonies in the process of emancipation, Britain could rely on the Commonwealth, the organization created in 1949 to unite all countries with which it has strong historical and linguistic ties. It now has fifty-four countries comprising a third of humanity, compared to just nine when Elizabeth II arrived on the throne exactly 70 years ago (UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka). lanka).

An amazing “island” of stability in a turbulent world: the number of States in the world, thanks to decolonization or various national fragmentations, has almost doubled since the beginning of Elizabeth II’s reign: at that time, there were 109 against more than 200 today, without counting a hundred independent territory, which is disputed or only recognized as de facto.

At the start of Elizabeth II’s reign, the world was roughly structured into two ideological and military “camps,” the Soviets (USSR, Eastern Europe) and the West (Western Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, and the Pacific). , Indochina and much of Africa thanks to the French and British colonies and protectorates). Outside of these two spheres of influence, only Latin America, Indonesia, China, whose economic weight is still weak, and the India-Pakistan duo, which has only been independent for three years. The concept of the Third World, which emerged from the pen of the French demographer Alfred Sauvy just after Elizabeth II’s coronation, took effect only after that.

This geopolitical situation “exploded” with decolonization in Africa and Asia, the rise of China, the breakup of the Soviet Union and the rise of Islamism, leading to a multipolar world.

Mixed republic and monarchy

Seemingly adhering to the monarchy’s motto, “never complain, never explain”, the Commonwealth passed this geopolitical upheaval unhindered, even if some of its members, especially in Africa or in the Indian subcontinent, did not escape coups, revolutions and civil wars. Only one real armed conflict is against its two members, Pakistan and India.

A stability, even harmony which can be explained by the relatively quiet political life of its members, as well as the flexibility of an organization without political and administrative oversight – only endowed in London with a secretariat for a budget of £40m.

70 years of reign: the life of Elizabeth II in pictures

if Commonwealth chaired by Elizabeth II who opens each of its annual summits, only a quarter of its members recognize her as head of state (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, a dozen countries in the Antilles and the Pacific). Thirty-three of them are republics (India, Pakistan, South Africa, Nigeria, etc.) and five are monarchies (Brunei, Swaziland, Lesotho, Malaysia and Tonga) with their own monarchs. In the absence of a leadership questioning the political significance of the Commonwealth, The Times newspaper went so far as to evoke in 1964 a “healthy and empty toy”.

Two countries with no historical ties to London, Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, and Rwanda, previously under German control, have joined the Commonwealth since 1995. Several members have been expelled for flagrant violations of the organization’s charter, which advocates democracy, rule of law. law and human rights, before being restored. Some also left on their own, before returning home after the regime change. However, two countries have left the organization for good: the Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe.

Such demographic and technological upheaval

Upheaval has not only been geopolitical since Elizabeth II’s arrival on the throne. At that time, the world had three times less people than it is today, with a life expectancy of less than 50 years, compared to nearly 73 years today. Global GDP has increased… forty-double and adult literacy rates have increased from 56% to 85%.

Birth control pills (1957), microprocessors (1969), organ transplants (1954), nuclear power plants (1954), cell phones (1973), the Internet, or undiscovered artificial satellites (1957). The retransmission of an event at Mondovision was carried out for the first time precisely at the coronation of Elizabeth II, in June 1953, one year after her coronation.

Serena Hoyles

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