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Home » GeoNotes, Geopolitics, Myth of the Nation-State

Diagramming the Realm of Queen Elizabeth II

Submitted by on September 20, 2012 – 8:20 pm 10 Comments |  
While contemplating Seth Jackson’s post on the lands of the British Crown, it occurred to me that a map-like diagram would be helpful for visualizing the geopolitical complexity that he described. I have posted here an attempt to do so. Feedback is welcome.

I have put a heavy black line around the “area of British sovereignty” to stress that this is the essential geopolitical unit as far as international relations are concerned, as areas of common sovereignty are widely viewed as the basic building blocks of the global geopolitical order. I am not happy, however, with the label “area of British sovereignty,” which seems much too weak. I have put a heavy dashed line around the United Kingdom in deference to the fact this unit looms largest in the public imagination.

Seth and I have wondered whether the other members of the Commonwealth of Nations should be included as a vague outer unit, as Elizabeth II is the official head of the organization. But the diagram seems busy enough as it is.


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  • I really like this diagram. You could make a similarly interesting one of France, The Netherlands, Denmark, or the United States, I think. Is this only because such countries had overseas colonial empires, or are countries in Asia, Africa, and South America similarly complicated in their legal arrangements?

    • Excellent point — and you have selected precisely the right countries. I think will do a few more of these diagrams next week.

      • I look forward to it. I would love to see where the Senkakus might fit into the hideous Venn diagram of the East China Sea.

      • Not to interrupt the glottochronology agon, but I have really enjoyed your charts. Are we going to see a Denmark or Netherlands chart? Russia, I think, would make an interesting chart as well.

        • Good points. I am a iut preoccupied at the moment with our posts on Indo-European, but once that is over I will return my attention to such issues.

  • Actually, this brings up an issue that I don’t think was dealt with in Mr. Jackson’s very interesting post. The commonwealth realms are realms of HM the Queen as queen of the various realms, right? She is Queen of Canada, Queen of Australia, etc. But isn’t Tonga also a commonwealth realm? Are HM the Queen and HM Tupou IV of Tonga some sort of co-monarchs, like the President of France and the Bishop of Seo de Urgel in Andorra?

    • Seth Jackson

      You raise a good question, James. Of the 54 member states of the Commonwealth of Nations, only 16 are Commonwealth realms, meaning that they have a monarchy that effectively mirrors that of the oldest realm, the United Kingdom. Elizabeth II is head-of-state of only these 16 realms. The other Commonwealth members have various other types of governments, completely independent of Elizabeth II and her successors. As you mentioned, some have monarchies of their own, such as Tonga, Malaysia, and Swaziland. Other are republics. HM The Queen has no political jurisdiction over these member states. Her role is solely as Head of the Commonwealth. The head of the Commonwealth does not necessarily have to be the monarch of the U.K. In theory it can be anyone, and perhaps the member nations will choose someone besides the reigning monarch in the future. Lastly, the Commonwealth, it seems to me, isn’t a politically governing entity — it is a “club” that collectively strives to promote peace, unity, and prosperity among its member states.

      • My gosh, I sense an even more complicated little schema coming on.

  • Gearóid Ó Fathaigh

    Northern Ireland and Wales are termed constituent countries; Wales is also termed a principality on occasion, and Northern Ireland is often termed a province (of the former UK Ireland constituent. Reference names are very political in NI however – only this last weekend the North’s (oops!) First Minister Peter Robinson requested that those from Southern Ireland (sic) or those of a nationalist persuasion within NI should show more respect to the UK by ceasing referring to ‘the North (of Ireland)’ or ’26 counties’ etc. by using the ‘proper’ Northern Ireland’.

    • Thanks for the clarification. Do you think that I should change the map/digram in regard to Northern Ireland? I was uncertain whether to call it a “constituent country” or not. What would be the best designation?