|Queen of Belize|
since 21 September 1981
|Heir apparent||Charles, Prince of Wales|
|First monarch||Elizabeth II|
|Formation||21 September 1981|
|Residence||Belize House, Belmopan|
The monarchy of Belize is a system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Belize. The current Belizean monarch and head of state, since the independence of Belize on 21 September 1981, is Queen Elizabeth II. As sovereign, she is the personal embodiment of the Belizean Crown. Although the person of the sovereign is 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 Belize and, in this capacity, she and other members of the Royal Family undertake public and private functions as representatives of the Belizean state. However, the Queen is the only member of the Royal Family with any constitutional role.
All executive authority is vested in the monarch, and royal assent is required for the National Assembly 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, government ministers, and judges. Other powers vested in the monarch 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 Belize.
In 1836, after the emancipation of Central America from Spanish rule, the British claimed the right to administer the region nowadays known as Belize. In 1862, the United Kingdom formally declared it a British Crown Colony, subordinate to Jamaica, and named it British Honduras. In 1862, the Settlement of Belize in the Bay of Honduras was declared a British colony called British Honduras, and the crown's representative was elevated to a lieutenant governor, subordinate to the governor of Jamaica.
Under a new constitution, Britain granted British Honduras self-governance in 1964. On 1 June 1973, British Honduras was officially renamed Belize. Independence from Britain was granted on 21 September 1981, following the signing of the Belize Independence Order in 1981 by Queen Elizabeth II, which made Belize a sovereign state and an independent constitutional monarchy.
Prince Michael of Kent represented the Queen at the independence celebrations. In the capital, Belmopan, in the morning of 21 September, Prince Michael handed the instruments of independence to George Price, who became the prime minister of independent Belize. Minita Gordon, a sociologist, was appointed governor-general by the Queen the same day.
Further information: Commonwealth realm § Relationship of the realms
The Sovereign of Belize is shared with other monarchies in the Commonwealth of Nations, with the monarch's relationship with Belize completely independent from her position as monarch of any other realm. Despite sharing the same person as their respective national monarch, each of the Commonwealth realms is sovereign and independent of the others.
Since independence in 1981, the Belizean Crown has had both a shared and a separate character and the sovereign's role as monarch of Belize is distinct to his or her position as monarch of any other realm, including the United Kingdom. Only Belizean ministers can advise the sovereign on matters of the Belizean state. The monarchy thus ceased to be an exclusively British institution and in Belize became a Belizean, or "domesticated" establishment.
This division is illustrated in a number of ways: The sovereign, for example, holds a unique Belizean title and, when she is acting in public specifically as a representative of Belize, she uses, where possible, Belizean symbols, including the country's national flag and the like.
In Belize, the legal personality of the state is referred to as the "Crown in Right of Belize", or "Her Majesty in right of Her Government in Belize", or the "Crown in right of Her Majesty's Government in Belize".
The Belizean Constitution gives Belize a similar parliamentary system of government as the other Commonwealth realms, in which all powers of the state are constitutionally reposed in the monarch, who is represented by the governor-general of Belize; appointed by the monarch upon the advice of the Prime Minister of Belize. The monarch's domestic duties are performed by this vice-regal representative.
The role of the monarch and the governor-general is both legal and practical; the Crown is regarded as a corporation, in which several parts share the authority of the whole, with the monarch as the person at the centre of the constitutional construct.
The governor-general is responsible for appointing a prime minister, who thereafter heads the 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 is informed by the governor-general of the acceptance of the resignation of a prime minister and the swearing-in of a new prime minister and members of the ministry.
The governor-general also appoints and dismisses ministers, members of various executive agencies, and other officials, including senators.
As all executive authority of Belize is vested in the sovereign, the institutions of government are said to act under her authority; hence, the government of Belize is formally referred to as "Her Majesty's Government in Belize".
The Royal Prerogative also extends to foreign affairs: the sovereign or the governor-general may negotiate and ratify treaties, alliances, and international agreements; no parliamentary approval is required. However, a treaty cannot alter the domestic laws of Belize; an Act of Parliament is necessary in such cases. The governor-general, on behalf of the monarch, also accredits Belizean 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 Belizean passports are issued in the governor-general's name, the monarch's vice-regal representative.
Your presence in this Honourable House of Representatives intensifies our faith in the principles of constitutional democracy, which are the pillars of Your Majesty's Government in Belize, and which guide the deliberations of this National Assembly.
The governor-general is responsible for summoning the two Houses of the National Assembly and may at any time prorogue or dissolve the National Assembly. The new parliamentary session is marked by the State Opening, during which the governor-general reads the Speech from the Throne, outlining the government's legislative agenda. A general election follows dissolution, the writs for which are dropped by the governor-general at Belize House. The authority of the Crown is embodied in the mace of the House of Representatives, which bears a crown at its apex; unlike other bicameral realms, however, the Belizean legislature only has a mace for the lower house.
There are also a few duties which must be specifically performed by the monarch, such as signing the appointment papers of governors-general.
Because the Belizean monarchy is a constitutional one, the powers that are constitutionally the monarch's are exercised almost wholly upon the advice of her Prime Minister and the Ministers of the Crown in Cabinet, who are, in turn, accountable to the democratically elected House of Representatives, and through it, to the people. The monarch's role, 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. In exceptional circumstances, however, the monarch or viceroy can act against such advice based upon his or her reserve powers.
All laws in Belize are enacted with the viceroy's signature. The granting of a signature to a bill is known as Royal Assent; it, and proclamation, are required for all acts of parliament, usually granted or withheld by the governor-general, with the Public Seal of Belize.
As your Sovereign, I am proud to associate myself with your determination that social justice and personal freedom should flourish under the rule of law.
The sovereign is responsible for rendering justice to all her subjects, and is thus traditionally deemed the fount of justice. In Belize, 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", and the monarch cannot be prosecuted in his or her own courts for criminal offences.
The appointment of the Chief Justice of Belize, and other Justices of the Supreme Court also falls under the Royal Prerogative, and these duties are assigned to the governor-general by the Constitution.
The governor-general can also grant immunity from prosecution, exercise the "prerogative of mercy", and pardon offences against the Crown. Pardons may be awarded before, during, or after a trial. The exercise of the 'Prerogative of Mercy' to grant a pardon and the commutation of prison sentences in described in section 52 of the Belizean Constitution.
In Belize, the Queen's official title is: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Belize and of Her Other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.
This style communicates Belize's status as an independent monarchy, highlighting the sovereign's role specifically as Queen of Belize, as well as the shared aspect of the Crown throughout the Commonwealth realms. Typically, the sovereign is styled "Queen of Belize", and is addressed as such when in Belize.
Further information: Succession to the Belizean throne
Like some realms, Belize 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 Belize, still lie within the control of the British parliament, via adopting the Statute of Westminster both the United Kingdom and Belize 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.
Belize celebrates the birthday of its monarch every year in May. The day is known as Sovereign's Day, and is marked by parades in Belize City, although it is not an official public holiday, like in the UK. Horse races, conducted by the National Sports Council, are held in Belize City's National Stadium and Orange Walk Town's People's Stadium. A cycling race, also arranged by the National Sports Council, is held between the cities of Belmopan and Cayo. There is a flag-raising ceremony among other events held at schools and universities to commemorate Sovereign's Day.
Within the Commonwealth realms, the monarch is deemed the fount of honour. Similarly, the monarch, as Sovereign of Belize, confers awards and honours in Belize in her name. Most of them are often awarded on the advice of "Her Majesty's Belize Ministers".
Through the passage of the National Honours and Awards Act, Belize established three national orders on 16 August 1991: the Order of Belize, the Order of Distinction, and the Order of the National Hero. The Queen of Belize is the sovereign of all three orders, while the governor-general serves as the chancellor.
The Crown sits at the pinnacle of the Belize Defence Force. The Queen is the Commander-in-Chief of the entire Forces.
The Crown of St. Edward appears on Belize Defence Force badges and rank insignia, which illustrates the monarchy as the locus of authority.
Under the Belizean Defence Act, every member of the Belize Defence Force must swear allegiance to the monarch of Belize, on taking office. The current oath is:
"I, (name), do sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Our Sovereign Lady the Queen and to Her constitutionally Elected Government in Belize and that I will faithfully serve Her Majesty in the Belize Defence Force until lawfully discharged, dismissed or removed, and that I will resist Her Majesty’s enemies and defend and protect all Her Majesty’s subjects and territory in Belize and cause Her Majesty’s peace to be kept and maintained and that I will in all matters appertaining to my service faithfully discharge my duties according to law."
St Edward's Crown also appears on the rank insignia of the Belize Police.
Every member of the Belize Police Department has to swear allegiance to the monarch of Belize, on taking office. Under the Police Act of Belize, every police officer must make the following declaration on joining the Department:
"I, (name), do solemnly and sincerely declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully serve Her Majesty the Queen, Her Heirs and Successors, during my service in the Department and will obey all orders of the Governor-General and of the officers placed over me, and will subject myself to all Acts, Orders and Regulations, from time to time in force, relating to the Department."
The main symbol of the Belizean monarchy is the sovereign herself. Thus, framed portraits of her are displayed in public buildings and government offices. Many Belizeans also keep portraits of the Queen and members of the Royal Family in their homes. All Belizean coins feature a crowned effigy of the Queen. All banknotes in Belize feature the Queen's portrait on the obverse. The Queen also appears on commemorative Belizean stamps.
A crown is also used to illustrate the monarchy as the locus of authority, appearing on police force, postal workers, prison officers, and Belize Defence Force regimental and maritime badges and rank insignia.
God Save the Queen is the royal anthem of Belize.
Under the Belizean Oath of Citizenship, new Belizean citizens have to take a pledge of allegiance to the monarch of Belize, and her heirs and successors.
Belize is the only one of my eighteen realms that I have not visited before and I have been looking forward to this moment for a long time.
Princess Margaret visited Belize in 1958. The Duke of Edinburgh visited in 1962.
Prince Michael of Kent represented the Queen at the independence celebrations in September 1981.
The Queen of Belize, Elizabeth II, visited Belize in October 1985. The Queen was welcomed by the Mayor and given the key to Belize City. She spent the night in Government House before flying to Dangriga the following day where they watched a Junkanoo Dance by children and received a painting from the people of the Stann Creek District. She also met British Servicemen and women stationed in Belize. During the visit, the Queen was served the famous gibnut during an official dinner. The next day, the British press in London ran headlines: "Queen Eats Rat in Belize". Ever since, the gibnut has often been referred to as "The Royal Rat", or "The Queen's Rat" in Belize.
The Duke of Edinburgh returned in 1988 for a solo visit in his capacity as President of the World Wide Fund for Nature.
The Queen visited again in 1994. On her arrival at the airport in Belize City, she was greeted by 90% of the city's population. The Queen also visited the towns of San Ignacio and Punta Gorda. The Queen attended a special sitting of the National Assembly, addressed the body for the first time and spoke of Belize's "robust democracy". She also visited Cahal Pech, one of Belize's many Mayan archaeological sites.
The Princess Royal visited Belize in April 2001. The Princess visited the National Assembly of Belize at Belmopan, and the Belize Defence Force, Price Barracks, Ladyville, Belize City. During her visit, The Princess also visited San Lazaro Village Roman Catholic Primary School at Orange Walk, the Mennonite Community at Blue Creek Village, the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, Marla's House of Hope, NOPCA Saves - Children's Home (National Organisation for the Prevention of Child Abuse), Belize Zoo, and the Commonwealth War Graves at Lord's Ridge Cemetery at Belize City.
I bring to you warmest greetings from The Queen of Belize, whose Diamond Jubilee we are celebrating here tonight. Her Majesty has asked me to send her good wishes to you all. She remembers so fondly her visits to this beautiful realm and speaks of the warmth of welcome she received on her most recent visit in 1994.
In 2012, Prince Harry visited on the Queen's behalf to mark her Diamond Jubilee. During his visit, the Prince visited the remains of the ancient Mayan city of Xunantunich, launched a canoe named in honour of the Queen, and attended officially naming of the 'Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Boulevard' in Belmopan.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited in March 2022 on the occasion of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. The couple visited historic Mayan sites, explored Belize's world-famous Maya chocolate making, and celebrated the rich culture of the Garifuna community in Hopkins. The Duke and Duchess also learned about the restoration efforts of Belize's barrier reef being led by communities across the country. They also scuba-dived to learn more about the second-largest barrier reef in the world. At the reception hosted by Governor-General Dame Froyla Tzalam in celebration of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, the Duke said, "Now we know why Belize is so lovingly referred to as the Jewel. We hope to return again soon and to show our children this wonderful country. They are rather jealous that they're not here with us now".
((citation)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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.