King of Solomon Islands
Incumbent
Charles III
since 8 September 2022
Details
StyleHis Majesty
Heir apparentWilliam, Prince of Wales
First monarchElizabeth II
Formation7 July 1978
ResidenceGovernment House, Honiara[1]

The monarchy of Solomon Islands is a system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Solomon Islands. The current monarch and head of state since 8 September 2022, is King Charles III. As sovereign, he is the personal embodiment of the Crown of Solomon Islands. 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 King of Solomon Islands and, in this capacity, he and other members of the royal family undertake public and private functions domestically and abroad as representatives of Solomon Islands. However, the King 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 Parliament of Solomon Islands to enact laws and for letters patent and Orders in Council to have legal effect. But the authority for these acts stems from the country's populace, in which sovereignty is vested, and the monarch's direct participation in any of these areas of governance is limited. 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 his representative, the governor-general of Solomon Islands.

History

A 1938 stamp featuring King George VI
A 1965 stamp featuring Queen Elizabeth II

In 1884, Germany annexed north-east New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago, and in 1886 they extended their rule over the North Solomon Islands.[2] In 1886, Germany and Britain confirmed this arrangement, with the British gaining a "sphere of influence" over the southern Solomons.[3] The British Solomon Islands Protectorate was declared in 1893, partly in response to abuses associated with labour recruitment and partly to regulate contacts between islanders and European settlers but mainly to forestall a threat of annexation by France. Colonial rule began in 1896. During World War II, the Solomon Islands campaign (1942–1945) saw fierce fighting between the United States, British Commonwealth forces and the Empire of Japan, including the Battle of Guadalcanal. After the war, Honiara on Guadalcanal became the new capital, replacing Tulagi. Subsequently, the Solomons set out on the path of constitutional development and decolonisation.[4]

Appointed Executive and Legislative Councils were established in 1960, with a degree of elected Solomon Islander representation introduced in 1964 and then extended in 1967.[5][6][7] A new constitution was drawn up in 1970 which merged the two Councils into one Governing Council, though the British Governor still retained extensive powers.[5][8]

A new constitution in 1974 reduced much of the Governor's remaining powers and created the post of Chief Minister.[5][9] Full self-government for the territory was achieved in 1976, and the following year a conference held in London agreed that the Solomons would gain full independence in 1978.[9] Under the terms of the Solomon Islands Act 1978 of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the country became a sovereign state and an independent constitutional monarchy on 7 July 1978, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and Queen of Solomon Islands.

Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester represented the Queen at the independence celebrations in July 1978. On 7 July, after the flag-raising ceremony, Baddeley Devesi and Peter Kenilorea took their oaths of office as governor-general and prime minister respectively.[10] The Duke, who delivered his speech in Pijin, said: "Today onefella big day, hemi come now. Country belong you fella, hemi grow up, and Queen hemi wantim every something belong you fella. E come up goodfellow long or get a years, bye bye e come."[11]

The Crown of Solomon Islands and its aspects

This land is the most beautiful place imaginable, and the people of the Solomon islands are amongst the most gracious and friendly we have ever met. The Queen told us this would be so, and as with so much else in her long reign, Her Majesty was absolutely right.

Solomon Islands is one of fifteen independent nations, known as Commonwealth realms, which shares its sovereign with other realms in the Commonwealth of Nations, with the monarch's relationship with Solomon Islands completely independent from his position as monarch of any other realm.[13] Despite sharing the same person as their respective monarch, each of the Commonwealth realms — including Solomon Islands — is sovereign and independent of the others. The Solomon Island monarch is represented by a viceroy—the governor-general of Solomon Islands—in the country.[14]

Since the independence of Solomon Islands in 1978, the pan-national Crown has had both a shared and a separate character and the sovereign's role as monarch of Solomon Islands is distinct to his or her position as monarch of any other realm, including the United Kingdom.[13] The monarchy thus ceased to be an exclusively British institution and in Solomon Islands became a Solomon Island, or "domesticated" establishment.[15][16]

The flag of the governor-general featuring St Edward's Crown

This division is illustrated in a number of ways: The sovereign, for example, holds a unique Solomon Island title and, when he is acting in public specifically as a representative of Solomon Islands, he uses, where possible, national symbols of Solomon Islands, including the country's national flag, unique royal symbols, and the like. Also, only Solomon Island government ministers can advise the sovereign on matters of Solomon Islands.[14]

In Solomon Islands, the legal personality of the State is referred to as "His Majesty in right of Solomon Islands" or the "Crown in right of Solomon Islands".[17][18]

Title

Although Queen Elizabeth II became Head of State of Solomon Islands upon independence in 1978, it was not until 2013 that the National Parliament passed the Royal Style and Titles Act 2013, which legally granted the monarch a separate title in relation to Solomon Islands. Upon the commencement of the act, the Queen's official style and title became: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Solomon Islands and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.[19] The new style was already in non-statutory use since 1988, when it was included in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade Manual.[20][21]

Since the accession of King Charles III, the monarch's title is: Charles the Third, by the Grace of God, King of Solomon Islands and His other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.

When Queen Elizabeth II first visited Solomon Islands in 1974, she was given the title Fau Ni Qweraasi, meaning "a people’s protector", by chief Simeon Kariqwongi of Star Harbour.[22]

Oath of allegiance

As the embodiment of the state, the monarch is the locus of oaths of Allegiance. This is done in reciprocation to the sovereign's Coronation Oath, wherein they promise to govern the peoples of their realms, "according to their respective laws and customs".[23]

The oath of allegiance in Solomon Islands is:[24]

"I, (name), swear [or solemnly affirm] that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King Charles the Third, His Heirs and Successors, according to law. [So help me God.]"

Succession

Further information: Succession to the British throne

William, Prince of Wales, is the current heir apparent to the throne of Solomon Islands

Like some realms, Solomon Islands defers to United Kingdom law to determine the line of succession.[25][26]

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, and must be in communion with the Church of England upon ascending the throne. Though these constitutional laws, as they apply to Solomon Islands, still lie within the control of the British Parliament, both the United Kingdom and Solomon Islands cannot 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.[27]

Upon a demise of the Crown (the death or abdication of a sovereign), it is customary for the accession of the new monarch to be publicly proclaimed by the governor-general in the capital, Honiara, after the accession.[28] Regardless of any proclamations, the late sovereign's heir immediately and automatically succeeds, without any need for confirmation or further ceremony. An appropriate period of mourning also follows, during which flags across the country are flown at half-mast to honour the late monarch. A day of mourning to commemorate the late monarch is likely to be a public holiday.[29][30]

Constitutional role and royal prerogative

In 1975, the people of this country decided to recommend to the then Constitutional Committee that Her Majesty The Queen become the Head of State. This view was enshrined in our Constitution on Independence in 1978.

The Constitution of Solomon Islands is made up of a variety of statutes and conventions, which gives Solomon Islands a similar parliamentary system of government as the other Commonwealth realms. All executive authority of the people of Solomon Islands is vested in the monarch,[32] who is represented in the country by a governor-general — appointed by the sovereign in accordance with an address from the National Parliament.[33]

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.[34] The Solomon Islands government is also thus formally referred to as His Majesty's Government of Solomon Islands.[35]

Governor-General Sir Frank Kabui with President Tsai of Taiwan at Government House, 2017

The vast powers that belong to the Crown are collectively known as the Royal Prerogative, which includes many powers such as the ability to make treaties or send ambassadors, as well as certain duties such as to defend the realm and to maintain the King's peace. Parliamentary approval is not required for the exercise of the Royal Prerogative; moreover, the Consent of the Crown must be obtained before either House may even debate a bill affecting the sovereign's prerogatives or interests.

Executive

One of the main duties of the Crown is to appoint 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.[36] 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 King's peace, as well as to summon and prorogue parliament and call elections.[37] 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,[34] 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.[38]

There are also a few duties which are specifically performed by the monarch, such as appointing the governor-general.[39]

The governor-general, to maintain the stability of government of Solomon Islands, appoints as prime minister the individual elected by members of the National Parliament.[40] The governor-general additionally appoints a Cabinet, at the direction of the prime minister.[41] The monarch is informed by his 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 he remains fully briefed through regular communications from his Solomon Island ministers.[42] Members of various executive agencies and other officials are appointed by the Crown.

Foreign affairs

US ambassador Erin Elizabeth McKee with Governor-General Sir David Vunagi, 2020

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 Solomon Islands; an Act of Parliament is necessary in such cases. The governor-general, on behalf of the monarch, also accredits Solomon Islands 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 Solomon Islands passports are issued in the governor-general's name, the monarch's vice-regal representative.[43]

Parliament

All laws in Solomon Islands are enacted only with the viceroy's granting of Royal Assent in the monarch's name.[44] 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, Honiara.[45]

The new parliamentary session is marked by the State Opening of Parliament, during which the monarch or the governor-general reads the Speech from the Throne.[46]

Courts

The sovereign is responsible for rendering justice for all his subjects, and is thus traditionally deemed the fount of justice.[47] In Solomon Islands, 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 King versus [Name], Rex versus [Name] or R versus [Name].[48][49][50] 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.[51]

The governor-general, on behalf of the monarch of Solomon Islands, 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 granting of a pardon and the commutation of prison sentences is described in section 45 of the Constitution.[52]

Judges of the High Court of Solomon Islands are appointed by the governor-general, on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission.[53]

Cultural role

The Queen's Birthday Parade in Solomon Islands, 2019

The King's Official Birthday is a public holiday in Solomon Islands where it is usually celebrated on the second Saturday of June every year.[54] It is regarded as one of the most important events of the year in the country. The day starts with the police marching band performing in the capital city of Honiara. Rallies are held all over the islands, which is followed by sporting events and custom dancing, and the celebrations and parties go long into the night.[55][56][57]

The governor-general delivers a speech on the King's Birthday,[58][59] and honours and medals are given to those who have done valiant things and great service for Solomon Islands and its people.[60]

A picture display in Honiara commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II

The Crown and Honours

Within the Commonwealth realms, the monarch is the fount of honour.[61] Similarly, the monarch, as Sovereign of Solomon Islands, confers awards and honours in Solomon Islands in his name. Most of them are often awarded on the advice of "His Majesty's Solomon Island Ministers".[62][63]

In March 1981, Governor-General Sir Baddeley Devesi was authorised by Royal warrant to institute the regulation of an Order of Solomon Islands. The composed of three grades: the Star of Solomon Islands, the Cross of Solomon Islands, and the Solomon Islands Medal. In 1982, Queen Elizabeth II became the first recipient of the Star of Solomon Islands.[64][65]

The Crown and the Police Force

The flag of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force featuring St Edward's Crown

The Police Force of Solomon Islands is known as the "Royal Solomon Islands Police Force". Formerly the Solomon Islands Police Force, the force was granted the prefix "Royal" by Queen Elizabeth II in 1978.[66]

The Crown sits at the pinnacle of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force. Under the Police Act 2013, all officers in the Police Force have to swear allegiance to the monarch of Solomon Islands, before taking office. The current oath is:[67]

"I, (name), Swear by Almighty God that I will well and truly serve His Majesty, King Charles the Third, King of Solomon Islands and will execute the powers and duties of my office honestly, faithfully and diligently without favour or affection, malice or ill-will towards any person and I will obey, uphold and maintain the laws of Solomon Islands. To the best of my power, I will seek and cause the peace to be preserved and will prevent all offences against the peace to the best of my skill and knowledge, and discharge all duties faithfully according to law."

St. Edward's Crown appears on the police force's badges and rank insignia, which illustrates the monarchy as the locus of authority.

Royal visits

Queen blong yumi and Duke blong Edinburgh telling me such a good memories blong time algeter visitin this islands.
(Pijin: Our Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have told me they have such good memories of their time visiting these islands.)

Members of the royal family have occasionally visited Solomon Islands. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh visited the islands in 1959 and 1971.[70] The Duke and Duchess of Kent visited in 1969.[71]

Queen Elizabeth II first visited in 1974, with Prince Philip, Princess Anne, Captain Mark Phillips and Lord Mountbatten, during a tour of the area.[72] In 1978, Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester represented the Queen at the independence celebrations.[71] The Queen and her husband visited the islands again in October 1982 after attending the Commonwealth Games in Australia.[72]

The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester visited the country in August 2008. They attended a parade in commemoration of the 30th Independence Anniversary, followed by an Ecumenical Church Service at the Saint Barnabas Anglican Cathedral Church. During their visit, the couple visited King George the Sixth School, the Guadalcanal Plains Palm Oil Limited (GPPOL), the National Referral hospital, the RAMSI Camp at the Guadalcanal Beach Resort and the American War Memorial in Skyline. The Duke also addressed the National Parliament to mark the end of the visit.[73][74]

Prince William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visited in September 2012 to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. During the visit, the Duke and Duchess were treated to panpipes performances, traditional costumes and an idyllic island retreat. In a cultural village, the couple saw performances by people representing the nine provinces that make up the nation. In Honiara, the Duke and Duchess attended a memorial to the Coast Watchers. During the visit, the couple also travelled on a traditional war canoe between the islands of Marapa and Tavanipupu.[75]

Charles, Prince of Wales visited the country in November 2019. During the visit, he attended a Service of Thanksgiving at St. Barnabas' Anglican Cathedral, participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Solomon Islands Scouts and Coastwatchers' Memorial, and addressed the National Parliament.[76][77]

Public opinion

As of September 2022, there was no significant indication to suggest that the Solomon Islands could move towards becoming a republic.[78] A 2023 poll by Lord Ashcroft polling showed that 59% of those questioned in the Solomon Islands supported a democratically elected head of state compared to 34% in favour of keeping the monarchy and 7% who did not know or would not vote.[79]

List of Solomon Island monarchs

Portrait Regnal name
(Birth–Death)
Reign over Solomon Islands Full name Consort House
Start End
Elizabeth II
(1926–2022)
7 July 1978 8 September 2022 Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Philip Mountbatten Windsor
Governors-general: Sir Baddeley Devesi, Sir George Lepping, Sir Moses Pitakaka, Sir John Lapli, Sir Nathaniel Waena, Sir Frank Kabui, Sir David Vunagi
Prime ministers: Peter Kenilorea, Solomon Mamaloni, Ezekiel Alebua, Francis Billy Hilly, Bartholomew Ulufa'alu, Manasseh Sogavare, Allan Kemakeza, Snyder Rini, Derek Sikua, Danny Philip, Gordon Darcy Lilo, Rick Houenipwela
Charles III
(born 1948)
8 September 2022 present Charles Philip Arthur George Camilla Shand Windsor
Governors-general: Sir David Vunagi
Prime ministers: Manasseh Sogavare

See also

References

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