The British monarchy, led these days by King Charles III, can be a contentious issue for many in the Welsh independence movement. Many in the movement want it abolished and feel that Wales becoming an independent country is a way that can happen, and some want it to continue either because they support it or because they don’t feel fighting for independence and a Republic at the same time is practical or pragmatic. I’m someone who is in the latter category and I’m going to set out the main reasons why I feel Wales should and will remain a constitutional monarchy post-independence.
The first reason is political pragmatism. Wales is a pro monarchy country and has no desire to replace the current unelected head of state King Charles III with an elected head of state just yet. The most recent poll conducted by YouGov for WalesOnline in February 2023 put support for the monarchy on 52%, with support for an elected head of state at 28%, with don’t know at 11%, a YouGov poll a year before with a bigger sample size put support at 55% and support for an elected head of state at 28%. Trying to achieve independence is going to be a challenge and the movement will need as many voters as possible. Alienating voters who may be persuaded to vote for independence but not necessarily a Republic isn’t politically pragmatic. Wales doesn’t need to be a Republic to be independent from Westminster.
The second reason is constitutional continuity. Wales becoming an independent country will be a big constitutional change. Although Wales as a country and nation is old, democratically it is still very young. Devolution has only been in place since 1999 and before that since 1535 politically Wales was a part of England and still isn’t a complete separate entity from England yet as it doesn’t have its own justice system. I personally have always felt that independence is a journey and there will be several steps on the way and for me the next logical step would be to become a sovereign nation state as a member of the UN as a constitutional monarchy with the current British monarch becoming King of Wales and there is precedence in this with other countries. When Ireland left the UK it became the Irish Free State in 1922 with the British monarch as the head of state and only became a Republic in 1949. Other countries like New Zealand, Australia and Canada who used to be under British rule but are now independent still have the British monarch as their head of state with governor generals performing the monarch’s day to day duties and I see Wales being very similar to those countries, especially New Zealand which has a unicameral Parliamentary system like Wales.
The third reason is losers consent and British identity. Not everyone in Wales will want Wales to be an independent country and end its political union with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I can’t predict how Wales will become independent, it could be through a referendum or an election or it could be by mutual consent between governments but there will be a significant proportion of the country against it, but the newly formed state will need that minority to accept independence and to engage with the process and the newly formed state. Many of those people will be current military and ex military and the new state will need them to help form its own Armed Forces. The monarchy can be a part of that, keeping the monarchy keeps that British link that many feel is an important part of their identity, it can help give the newly formed state an air of legitimacy in their eyes so that they accept it and be a part of it and it will also help evolve Britishness away from how it’s seen now through UK eyes to a more Scandinavian type identity where the people of Great Britain have common connections, through language, family, friendship and a common head of state in the British monarch but are politically independent from each other.
The fourth reason is the relationship with England. Wales relationship with England is a long and complicated one and independence will be a new chapter in that relationship and will be a big change in the relationship not just for Wales but for England as well. The monarchy can be a bridge between the 2 countries and reaffirm the relationship as friendly neighbours and be a symbol of that relationship and show that Wales as a country seeks independence because it wants to govern itself not as some sort of anti-English sentiment which Welsh independence is often accused of being. This also connects in with part of reason 3 in Britishness evolving with common connections and the monarchy being part of that.
An independent Wales may well eventually become a Republic as many in the movement will hope but that journey must start somewhere and for Wales, I believe that journey will need to be started as a constitutional monarchy with a shared King as it’s head of state. The importance for me is for Wales to become independent from Westminster, for it to have the powers and the ability to make things better for its citizens and join the international community as a sovereign nation state.
Written by Jeremy Brookman, a Welsh independence supporter since 2019, a YesCymru member and a member of Plaid Cymru.