The shrinking realm: Queen Elizabeth’s Commonwealth and the future of its nations

LONDON — At its height, the British Empire’s rule oversaw 412 million people — or around 23% of the world’s population — spanning from North America to Oceania. It was once

said that the sun never set on the British Empire, but as years passed, the monarchy’s global reach began to decline. Six years after the devastation of World War I,

Britain announced that each member of the Empire would be seen as equal. This meant that the monarchy and its Parliament had no power over the domestic and foreign policies of

these “Dominions.” After World War II, the British Empire would continue to contract, as countries under its colonial rule fought for and gained their independence. In

1949, the British Commonwealth of Nations would no longer ask members to swear allegiance to the crown, and all nations under the umbrella of the association would simply be known

as the Commonwealth of Nations. Elizabethan era Upon Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne in 1952, the Commonwealth had already lost Ireland, in 1948. Eire gained

its autonomy in 1921 after 800 years of British involvement, leaving only the six counties in Northern Ireland, of the 32 counties on the island, as part of the United

Kingdom. During her coronation speech in 1953, the new monarch acknowledged and praised Britain’s imperial past. “I have behind me not only the splendid traditions and the

annals of more than a thousand years, but the living strength and majesty of the Commonwealth and Empire,” she said. Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-serving sovereign, was on

the throne seven years longer than Queen Victoria, her great-great grandmother, who oversaw the expansion of Britain's colonial possessions.