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#BTEditorial – To KC or not to be? Discard monarchical titles. All of them.

When Barbados became a republic on November 30, 2021, it severed the last vestiges of direct ties with the British monarchy. This was an historic landmark; a clear sign of the completion of the independence project that began 55 years before when the Union Jack was lowered for the last time over the colony that was Barbados.

We are therefore alarmed that the designation of King’s Counsel (KC) remains. This decision is troubling, and it sends the wrong message about Barbados’ commitment to republicanism, equality and fairness.

Symbols and trappings of power are instruments of communication. One must therefore be deeply concerned about the message that the desire for KC, QC, Dame, Sir, The Most Honourable and the like sends.

The title of King’s Counsel is a relic of Barbados’ colonial past. The first Queen’s Counsel (QC) was appointed in 1597 – 30 years before settlement –  by Queen Elizabeth I. In the four centuries since, it was awarded to the monarch’s counsellors and later, to the best legal advocates in England and Wales. It is also a courtesy appointment to such law officers of the crown as the Attorney General and the Solicitor General. As such, the title of King’s or Queen’s Counsel – depending on which monarch sits on the British throne –  is a symbol of Barbados’ former allegiance to the British monarchy, and it can have no place in Barbados the republic.

The decision to adopt the title of King’s Counsel is also a slap in the face to the many Barbadians who worked tirelessly to free Barbados from growing up stupid under the Union Jack in both mind, body and spirit. We cannot be a republic in name only; there has to be an emancipation of the mind from colonial subjugation to full, free and complete self-determination.

Barbados must discard all monarchical titles, including knighthoods, if it is serious about being a republic. That the recipients of such titles when Barbados had a queen should automatically be grandfathered into an honours system. We are not comfortable with  “The Most Honourable” replacing a “Sir” or “Dame”. Kings lost their pomposity and their heads with it to free citizens from elitism and division.

Other republics, such as Ireland and France, have already made this clear. In Ireland, the title of King’s Counsel was abolished in 1949, when Ireland became a republic, and the country has stoutly resisted calls for an honours system since then. In postwar France, the title of Counsel of State was abolished in 1946.  Barbadian lawyers could easily have automatically become Senior Counsels as in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.

In Ancient Greece, the philosopher Plato’s Republic was concerned with the formation of a nation on three principles – justice, virtue and happiness. He warned that the first deviant regime from a just kingship or aristocracy will be timocracy, where rulers and oligarchs put the pursuit of honour above wisdom and justice. No reading of the history of republics, from Ancient Greece to the American, French and Haitian Revolutions, or the upheavals across Europe from 1848 to the aftermath of the First World War in 1918, contemplates the retention of monarchical titles, even as a courtesy. To do so makes a mockery of the constitutional change.

Sadly, against our most fervent wishes, we rushed headlong into republicanism without the requisite political education for remaking our constitution. We were told to create the republic first, and then deal with the constitution later. It is now “later”.

Barbados has become a republic. It has its first female president. Now the work of growing up must begin properly. Barbados must completely sever its mental ties with the British monarchy if it is to truly be a sovereign nation.

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