The monarchy of the Bahamas is a system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The current Bahamian monarch and head of state, since the independence of the Bahamas on 10 July 1973, is Queen Elizabeth II. As sovereign, she is the personal embodiment of the Bahamian Crown. Although the person of the sovereign is equally shared with 14 other independent countries within the Commonwealth of Nations, each country's monarchy is separate and legally distinct. As a result, the current monarch is officially titled Queen of the Bahamas and, in this capacity, she and other members of the Bahamian Royal Family undertake public and private functions domestically and abroad as representatives of the Bahamian state. However, the Queen is the only member of the Royal Family with any constitutional role.
|Queen of the Bahamas|
since 10 July 1973
|Heir apparent||Charles, Prince of Wales|
|First monarch||Elizabeth II|
|Formation||10 July 1973|
|Residence||Government House, Nassau|
All executive authority is vested in the monarch, and royal assent is required for the Bahamian Parliament to enact laws and for letters patent and Orders in Council to have legal effect. Most of the powers are exercised by the elected members of parliament, the ministers of the Crown generally drawn from amongst them, and the judges and justices of the peace. Other powers vested in the monarch, such as the appointment of a prime minister, are significant but are treated only as reserve powers and as an important security part of the role of the monarchy.
The Crown today primarily functions as a guarantor of continuous and stable governance and a nonpartisan safeguard against the abuse of power. While some powers are exercisable only by the sovereign, most of the monarch's operational and ceremonial duties are exercised by her representative, the governor-general of the Bahamas.
In 1629, King Charles I granted Robert Heath, attorney general of England, territories in America including "Bahama and all other Isles and Islands lying southerly there or neare upon the foresayd continent". Charles Towne was settled in 1660 and named for King Charles II, but its name was changed to Nassau after William III came to the throne; the German region Nassau was a holding of William's family.
In August 1940, the Duke of Windsor was appointed Governor of the Bahamas. He arrived in the colony with his wife Wallis, Duchess of Windsor. The Duke was praised at the time for his efforts to combat poverty on the islands.
In May 1963, a conference was held in London to consider a new constitution for the islands. The islands were granted full internal self-government, with the governor retaining reserved powers only for foreign affairs, defense, and internal security.
On 10 July 1973, Charles, Prince of Wales delivered the official documents to Prime Minister Lynden Pindling, officially declaring the Bahamas a fully independent nation, within the Commonwealth of Nations. Shortly after independence, Sir John Paul was appointed the first governor-general of the Bahamas, the vice-regal representative of Elizabeth II, Queen of the Bahamas.
The Bahamas is one of fifteen independent nations, known as Commonwealth realms, which shares its sovereign with other monarchies in the Commonwealth of Nations, with the monarch's relationship with the Bahamas completely independent from her position as monarch of any other realm. Despite sharing the same person as their respective monarch, each of the Commonwealth realms — including the Bahamas — is sovereign and independent of the others.[n 1] The Bahamian monarch is represented by a viceroy—the governor-general of the Bahamas—in the Bahamian realm.
Since Bahamian independence in 1973, the pan-national Crown has had both a shared and a separate character and the sovereign's role as monarch of Bahamas is distinct to his or her position as monarch of any other realm, including the United Kingdom. The monarchy thus ceased to be an exclusively British institution and in the Bahamas became a Bahamian, or "domesticated" establishment.
This division is illustrated in a number of ways: The sovereign, for example, holds a unique Bahamian title and, when she is acting in public specifically as a representative of the Bahamas, she uses, where possible, Bahamian symbols, including the country's national flag, unique royal symbols, and the like. Also, only Bahamian government ministers can advise the sovereign on matters of the Bahamian state.
The Bahamian constitution is made up of a variety of statutes and conventions which gives the Bahamas a parliamentary system of government under a constitutional monarchy, wherein the role of the monarch and governor-general is both legal and practical, but not political. The Crown is regarded as a corporation, in which several parts share the authority of the whole, with the sovereign as the person at the centre of the constitutional construct, meaning all powers of state are constitutionally reposed in the Bahamian monarch. The government of Bahamas is also thus formally referred to as Her Majesty's Government.
All institutions of government act under the sovereign's authority; the vast powers that belong to the Bahamian Crown are collectively known as the Royal Prerogative. Parliamentary approval is not required for the exercise of the Royal Prerogative; moreover, the consent of the Crown is must before either of the houses of parliament may even debate a bill affecting the sovereign's prerogatives or interests.
One of the main duties of the Crown is to appoint a prime minister, who thereafter heads the Bahamian cabinet and advises the monarch or governor-general on how to execute their executive powers over all aspects of government operations and foreign affairs. The monarch's, and thereby the viceroy's role is almost entirely symbolic and cultural, acting as a symbol of the legal authority under which all governments and agencies operate, while the Cabinet directs the use of the Royal Prerogative, which includes the privilege to declare war, maintain the Queen's peace, and direct the actions of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, as well as to summon and prorogue parliament and call elections. However, it is important to note that the Royal Prerogative belongs to the Crown and not to any of the ministers, though it might have sometimes appeared that way, and the constitution allows the governor-general to unilaterally use these powers in relation to the dismissal of a prime minister, dissolution of parliament, and removal of a judge in exceptional, constitutional crisis situations.
There are also a few duties which are specifically performed by the Queen, such as appointing the governor-general.
The governor-general, to maintain the stability of the Bahamian government, appoints as prime minister the individual most likely to maintain the support of the Bahamian House of Assembly. The governor-general additionally appoints a Cabinet, at the direction of the prime minister, at least eight other ministers of the Crown. The Queen is informed by her viceroy of the acceptance of the resignation of a prime minister and the swearing-in of a new prime minister and other members of the ministry, and she remains fully briefed through regular communications from her Bahamian ministers. Members of various executive agencies and other officials are appointed by the Crown. The appointment of senators, and Supreme Court justices also falls under the Royal Prerogative.
The Royal Prerogative further extends to foreign affairs: the governor-general ratifies treaties, alliances, and international agreements. As with other uses of the Royal Prerogative, no parliamentary approval is required. However, a treaty cannot alter the domestic laws of the Bahamas; an Act of Parliament is necessary in such cases. The governor-general, on behalf of the Queen, also accredits Bahamian High Commissioners and ambassadors and receives diplomats from foreign states. In addition, the issuance of passports falls under the Royal Prerogative and, as such, all Bahamian passports are issued in the governor-general's name, the monarch's representative in the Bahamas.
The monarch does not, however, participate in the legislative process; the viceroy does, though only in the granting of Royal Assent. Further, the constitution outlines that the governor-general alone is responsible for appointing senators. The viceroy must make nine senatorial appointments on the advice of the prime minister, four on the advice of leader of the opposition, and three on the advice of both. The viceroy additionally summons, prorogues, and dissolves parliament; after the latter, the writs for a general election are usually dropped by the governor-general at Government House, Nassau.
All laws in the Bahamas are enacted only with the viceroy's granting of Royal Assent in the monarch's name. The Royal Assent, and proclamation, are required for all acts of parliament, usually granted or withheld by the governor-general, with the Public Seal of the Bahamas.
Within the Commonwealth realms, the sovereign is responsible for rendering justice for all her subjects, and is thus traditionally deemed the fount of justice. In the Bahamas, criminal offences are legally deemed to be offences against the sovereign and proceedings for indictable offences are brought in the sovereign's name in the form of The Queen versus [Name]. Hence, the common law holds that the sovereign "can do no wrong"; the monarch cannot be prosecuted in his or her own courts for criminal offences.
The governor-general, on behalf of the Bahamian monarch, can also grant immunity from prosecution, exercise the royal prerogative of mercy, and pardon offences against the Crown, either before, during, or after a trial. The exercise of the 'Prerogative of mercy' to grant a pardon and the commutation of prison sentences is described in section 90 of the Constitution.
All justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by the governor-general.
All Bahamian judges have to swear that they will "well and truly serve" the monarch of the Bahamas, on taking office. Under the Official Oaths Act, the Judicial Oath is:
"I, (name), do swear that I will well and truly serve Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors, in the office of ________ and will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of The Bahamas without fear or favour, affection or ill will. So help me God."
The monarch does not, however, personally rule in judicial cases; instead, judicial functions are performed in her name. In international cases, as a sovereign and under established principles of international law, the Queen of the Bahamas is not subject to suit in foreign courts without her express consent. In addition, the monarch also serves as a symbol of the legitimacy of courts of justice and of their judicial authority. An image of the Queen or the Coat of arms of Bahamas is always displayed in Bahamian courtrooms.
In the Bahamas, the Queen's official title is: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.
This style communicates the Bahamas's status as an independent monarchy, highlighting the Monarch's role specifically as Queen of the Bahamas, as well as the shared aspect of the Crown throughout the realms. Typically, the Sovereign is styled "Queen of the Bahamas," and is addressed as such when in the Bahamas, or performing duties on behalf of the Bahamas abroad.
The oath of allegiance in the Bahamas is:
Like some realms, the Bahamas defers to United Kingdom law to determine the line of succession.
Succession is by absolute primogeniture governed by the provisions of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, as well as the Act of Settlement, 1701, and the Bill of Rights, 1689. This legislation limits the succession to the natural (i.e. non-adopted), legitimate descendants of Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and stipulates that the monarch cannot be a Roman Catholic, nor married to one, and must be in communion with the Church of England upon ascending the throne. Though these constitutional laws, as they apply to the Bahamas, still lie within the control of the British parliament, via adopting the Statute of Westminster both the United Kingdom and the Bahamas agreed not to change the rules of succession without the unanimous consent of the other realms, unless explicitly leaving the shared monarchy relationship; a situation that applies identically in all the other realms, and which has been likened to a treaty amongst these countries.
The Bahamian monarch sends congratulatory messages to Bahamian citizens celebrating their 100th birthday, and to married couples on their 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries.
Within the Commonwealth realms, the monarch is deemed the fount of honour. Similarly, the monarch, as Sovereign of the Bahamas, confers awards and honours in the Bahamas in her name. Most of them are often awarded on the advice of "Her Majesty's Bahamas Ministers".
Through the passage of the National Honours Act 2016, the Bahamas established seven national orders on 27 January 2016. The monarch's vice-regal representative, the governor-general, serves as the Chancellor of all these orders.
The Crown sits at the pinnacle of the Bahamian Defence Force. It is reflected in Bahamas's naval vessels, which bear the prefix HMBS, i.e., Her Majesty's Bahamian Ship.
In September 1979, Princess Anne visited the Bahamas Defence Force Base at Coral Harbour, and unveiled a plaque designating the Base as "Her Majesty's Bahamian Ship Coral Harbour". The Princess officially conferred the title "Royal" on the Force, making it known therafter as the "Royal Bahamas Defence Force".
Every member of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force has to swear allegiance to the Bahamian monarch on taking office. The oath is:
"I, (name), swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Her Heirs and Successors, according to law, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend the Commonwealth of The Bahamas against all enemies, and will observe and obey all lawful orders of Commander Defence Force and of the officers, warrant officers and marines set above me."
The national police force of the Bahamas is known as "The Royal Bahamas Police Force".
Every member of the Royal Bahamas Police Force has to swear allegiance to the monarch of the Bahamas, on taking office. Under the Bahamian Police Service Act, the oath of office, which is to be taken after the oath of allegiance, is:
"I, (name), do swear that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady the Queen, in the office of _____ without favour or affection, malice or ill will, and that I will cause Her Majesty's peace to be kept and preserved; and that I will prevent, to the utmost of my power, all offences against the same; and while I shall continue to hold the said office I will, to the best of my skill and knowledge, discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law. So help me God."
The main symbol of the Bahamian monarchy is the sovereign herself. Thus, framed portraits of her are displayed in public buildings and government offices. Banknotes in the Bahamas feature the Queen's portrait on the obverse. The Queen also appears on commemorative Bahamian stamps.
A crown is also used to illustrate the monarchy as the locus of authority, appearing on police force, postal workers, prison officers rank insignia.
The Bahamas holds a special place in Her Majesty’s heart. Her love for this realm and you, the Bahamian people, stretches back over the decades, right to that first visit in 1966.
The Queen and members of the Royal Family have toured the Bahamas on several occasions.
As part of larger Caribbean tours, the islands were visited by the Queen and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in February 1966. In July 1973, the Prince of Wales represented the Queen at the Bahamian independence celebrations in Nassau. The Queen and her husband returned to the islands in February 1975, and again during her Silver Jubilee tour in October 1977. Princess Anne visited the Bahamas in 1979 with her husband Captain Mark Phillips to commemorate 250 years of Bahamian parliamentary democracy.
The Prince and Princess of Wales visited in 1982 for a 10-day vacation. The Queen and Prince Philp visited Nassau for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October 1985. The Queen and the Duke visited again in March 1994.
Prince Harry visited the Bahamas in March 2012, during his tour of the Caribbean to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. The Princess Royal visited the Bahamas in 2015. The Earl and Countess of Wessex visited in 2016.
The monarchy is not a major topic of debate in the Bahamas. The Constitutional Commission, which recommends making the governor-general president, has found "mixed feelings" on the matter, with a significant number of respondents being indifferent. In 2020, former Attorney General Sean McWeeney stated the Bahamas' transition to a republic may be "inevitable" at some point, but that there is no real appetite or momentum among the Bahamian public for it yet, nor is there mainstream political will. There are some minor and new republican parties such as Coalition of Independents (COI).
The Crown is an institution that has grown to become specific to the country in which it now finds itself planted. No longer just a British monarchy, the Crown is separately a Jamaican monarchy, Tuvaluan monarchy, Canadian monarchy, et cetera.