LONDON — From sun-kissed Caribbean beaches to icy north Atlantic tundra, Queen Elizabeth II’s family has begun a celebratory tour to mark her 60th year on the throne - just as questions are raised about dumping the monarchy in the far-flung outposts of Britain’s faded empire.
Prince Harry has opened celebrations in Jamaica, the nation that is most vocally stirring opposition to the queen’s role as head of state of 16 nations and 14 smaller British dependencies.
While the 85-year-old monarch commands respect across her dominions, opinion polls show republican movements in some countries would gain momentum if Prince Charles takes the British throne as expected.
Prince Harry, third in line to the throne, met Tuesday with Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who says the queen is a “lovely lady” but insists her country must sever remaining links to Britain, in part because of the shameful legacy of slavery.
“It is important to us because it is part of a journey, a journey that started when our ancestors were dragged, sold into slavery and brought here and elsewhere in the Caribbean,” Ms. Simpson Miller told the Associated Press in an interview.
Millions of Africans were transported as slaves to Caribbean colonies until Britain abolished its slave trade in 1807.
Some analysts believe that if Jamaica, which won independence in 1962, removes the queen as head of state, others in the Caribbean - like the Bahamas, Barbados and Grenada - could follow suit.
“My intuition is that if the issue is well presented, the people of the remaining Caribbean monarchies would welcome the change,” said Havelock Brewster, an economist who has served as a Guyanese ambassador.
Most already have wide political and judicial independence and see the monarch’s role as purely symbolic. Since the creation of the 33-nation Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in 2010, many have embraced allies closer to home.
During the so-called imperial century that began in the early 1800s, Britain’s empire took in about 400 million people, but dwindled sharply through the 20th century, as nations including India, Ireland and a host of African countries won independence.
Since she was crowned in 1952, the queen’s domain has shrunk from 32 nations to 16.
Some sparsely populated outposts are too small to be viable alone, others are - at least temporarily - reliant on British funds as they struggle with sluggish economies, or the impact of natural disasters.