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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 09:10 GMT 10:10 UK
How Commonwealth sees the Queen
As the Queen celebrates her 80th birthday, BBC correspondents across the Commonwealth look at how the monarch is viewed.


Queen Elizabeth has been a key figure in Australia's recent political history.

The respect she has enjoyed has stifled the republican movement.

It wants to ditch the British monarch in favour of a home-grown head of state and believes change will eventually come when Prince Charles is crowned king.

"There is a sense of affection towards the Queen," said Susan Ryan from the Australian Republican Movement.

The Queen receives flowers from schoolchildren waving national flags after a Commonwealth Day Service in Sydney
Some doubt Australian affection for her will transfer to Charles

"But that affection and familiarity won't be transferred by the Australian people to Charles."

The Queen's birthday will be celebrated here in a low-key fashion.

Die-hard supporters, however, will not be able to resist raising a glass or two in her honour.

They believe Her Majesty has provided great stability.

"She is perhaps someone who keeps others from total power," explained Philip Benwell of the Australian Monarchist League.

"This is a tremendous moment in the life of the Queen and in the history of our country," he added fondly.

The Queen's 80th birthday will be officially acknowledged in Canada with polite best wishes, the odd speech from politicians in the capital, Ottawa, and an outpouring of admiration for her and the job she does in the editorial pages of the newspapers.

But for the majority of Canadians, the event will simply be a passing news story, generating neither feelings of intense loyalty, nor much of a debate about why Canada still has a head of state from a foreign country.

Canada broke its last constitutional ties with the United Kingdom in 1982.

But Canada seems content to remain a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II its "de jure" head of state.

The Queen sits next to Chief Alphonse Bird of the Federation of Indian Nations at the First Nations University in Regina, Canada, in 2005
Opinion about the Queen can divide along age lines in Canada

Although she does hold a few powers of her own, it is the governor-general who is the "de facto" head of state.

But in reality, both roles are almost entirely ceremonial.

The Queen's image still appears on some of Canada's currency and the word "royal" is an integral part of many of the country's institutions.

Feelings and opinions about the Queen in Canada seem to depend on whom you talk to.

Those in the country's easterly Atlantic provinces, where the descendents of the original United Empire Loyalists reside, seem to approve of her the most.

By contrast in French-speaking Quebec she is regarded at best as an irrelevance and at worst a symbol of English-Canadian domination.

The question of where the monarchy fits in modern-day Canada becomes even murkier when one considers that nearly 50% of the population in the largest city, Toronto, was born outside of North America.

She's on our money?
20-something on a Toronto street

It is therefore not surprising that for these "new" Canadians who come from a Chinese, Italian or Ethiopian background, the Queen may not be uppermost in their minds.

There is also a growing division between older and younger Canadians, with the latter less and less likely to give the Queen or the question of the monarchy's future much thought.

I stopped one twentysomething couple on a Toronto street and asked them what the Queen meant to them.

After a few seconds of looking dumbfounded, one replied hesitantly: "She's on our money?" before breaking into gales of laughter.

But if many of the Queen's subjects in Canada appear dispassionate about her, this does not translate into much of a call for a change in the country's constitutional relationship with the monarchy.

The prevailing wisdom seems to be that the role is hers as long as she wants it and that any serious discussion about the monarchy's future here is unlikely until after her reign.

The English-speaking Caribbean sees the Queen as a rare point of stability in a region that has changed rapidly since World War II.

If you were born in the pre-war West Indies, you were a British citizen.

Independence came to the English-speaking Caribbean between the 1960s and the early 1980s.

Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica went a step further and became republics with their own presidents, but most other islands retain the Queen as head of state.

The Queen presented with a bouquet of flowers by Kimberly Black while visiting the Hugh Sherlock Community Center in Kingston on a three-day visit to Jamaica in 2001.
Many regard the Queen as a figure of sobriety and respect

Ricky Singh, a veteran Caribbean journalist, says: "Whether you belong to a rapidly dying breed of monarchists or militant advocates for constitutional republics, it is simply difficult not to admire the Queen for her perpetual calming and enduring presence."

Singh was born in Guyana but has spent a large part of his life in Barbados, affectionately known as "Little England".

But even there, politicians and the media have debated whether to change to a republican system.

Trinidad and Tobago, for its part, went down that road in the early 1970s and now views the Queen as a remote figure.

The press in Trinidad and most of the Caribbean, however, cannot get enough stories about her children and grandchildren.

Whatever else she has been, she has been a kind of figure of sobriety and respect - especially in the light of the behaviour of some of her children and grandchildren
Trinidadian journalist Tony Fraser

"The English-speaking Caribbean can never get away from its British past," says Trinidadian journalist Tony Fraser.

"The language is English, and the traditions, the political systems and so on. They're very British in orientation.

"However, the kind of dependence and the kind of feeling that we were part of the British Empire, that has gone."

Despite this, the debate on republicanism in Jamaica and Barbados has been flagging over the last two years.

Singh says that even Jamaica, with its "robust patriotism and nationalism" has seen "successive governments fail to put that question to the electorate".

We have a strange collection of bedfellows - Christian, Islamic, in Asia, Africa, in the Caribbean
Caribbean journalist Ricky Singh

The monarch's role leading the Commonwealth is the one the Caribbean expects will change when Queen Elizabeth is no longer on the throne.

Fraser says: "Whatever else she has been, she has been a kind of figure of sobriety and respect - especially in the light of the behaviour of some of her children and grandchildren, so there is some measure of endearment for the Queen."

The Queen at 80 might be a symbolic figure of unity, but the Caribbean part of the Commonwealth thinks it all sits on the shoulders of one woman, rather than an institution.

Singh predicts a restructuring of the Commonwealth after Queen Elizabeth.

"I don't see it being sustained in its current form because we have a strange collection of bedfellows - Christian, Islamic, in Asia, Africa, in the Caribbean.

"I don't see it continuing."

Nearly 130 years after Queen Victoria was crowned Empress of India, the ties between Britain's once former prized colony and the Royal Family has all but faded.

Most Indians would be hard pressed to recognise the Queen, fewer still can grasp the role of the monarchy in a functioning democracy.

Perhaps this has something to do with the shifts in Indian society.

Its own kings and princes, once numbering several hundred, have lost their status in independent India with their former kingdoms having merged with the country in 1947.

The  Queen tours India in 1998
Indian views on the Queen are skewered by Britain's colonial past

It may also have something to do with the ambivalence with which India views its former colonial ruler.

The impact of more than 200 years of British rule is something that is still often hotly debated in the country.

Many believe that India owes some of its enduring institutions including parliament, the legal system, the bureaucracy and its communication and transport systems to Britain.

But many others say that colonial rule is a dark chapter in Indian history that must quickly be forgotten.

It was in Kenya in February 1952 that Princess Elizabeth learned that she had become Queen.

She was staying at Treetops Hotel when she received word from Buckingham Palace that her father, King George VI, had died.

She has returned to Kenya on four subsequent occasions and members of her family are regular holiday visitors.

So there are strong links and some affection for the Queen, but the young, modern Kenyan knows little of the British monarch.

It was in Kenya in February 1952 that Princess Elizabeth learnt that she had become Queen of England
Princess Elizabeth learned she had become Queen while in Kenya

In the village of Ukunda on the coast last week very few of the under-25s I spoke to had even heard of her.

Her name did bring a smile to the older generation, who recalled her becoming Queen while on Kenyan soil.

But Kenyans look back on the final 10 years of British rule, her first decade as Queen, with anger.

The uncompromising suppression of the Mau-Mau uprising, when thousands of Kenyans were killed, and hundreds of thousands imprisoned and abused, provokes bitter memories.

Among older Malaysians there is still a considerable degree of affection for the Queen.

"Those educated in schools set up by the British, they still cherish our links with the UK," said Chye Kooi Loong from Kampar who served alongside British troops during the struggle against the Communists in the 1950s.

The Queen greets church-goers at St Marys Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur
Older Malaysians have considerable affection for the Queen

"She's a very nice lady," he said and treasures the memory of being introduced to her when she last visited Malaysia for the Commonwealth Games in 1998.

"Her being here added to the surrealism of that occasion," remembered one senior Malaysian journalist who is of a generation born after Malaysia won its independence from Britain in 1957.

Most people here remember that visit because it coincided with the Asian economic crisis, the birth of the Reformasi protest movement and the arrest of the former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.

"Growing up after independence there was more a sense of embarrassment about the colonial era," the journalist said.

As for younger Malaysians, "We never talk about her," said college student Jonathan Lim.

But he conceded that is partly because he and his friends relate less to the grandmotherly monarch than to her grandchildren - not just products of Eton, but part of the MTV generation.

Queen Elizabeth has twice visited Nigeria, a former British colony and Africa's most populous nation.

First in 1956, four years before its independence, and for a second time in 2003 to attend a Commonwealth summit.

For most Nigerians, the British Queen has little relevance to their lives.

But given the two country's shared colonial past, and Nigeria's membership of the Commonwealth - she is a head of state who is widely recognised.

With her age, experience and wisdom she is an untapped resource in terms of statesmanship
Dr Alero Roberts
Lagos resident

A local businessman, Lotanna Ojukwu, said she was a great ambassador for Britain.

"She's the best salesman Britain has," he said.

"The fact that she's a monarch who is above politics means that in today's world she is viewed with respect and dignity.

"She has played her role with seriousness, much more than any other head of state."

A doctor in Lagos, Dr Alero Roberts, said Nigerian society has great respect for the elderly.

She said the Queen's years of experience should be put to more use.

"It's nice that she grew old and looks so fit.

"But how much of a role does she have in guiding Britain.

"With her age, experience and wisdom she is an untapped resource in terms of statesmanship."


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