HM Queen Elizabeth II, and more specifically the crown which she holds, reigns over 15 realms in addition to the United Kingdom. These realms are Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Papua New Guinea, St Christopher and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tuvalu, Barbados, Grenada, Solomon Islands, St Lucia and The Bahamas. While each of these countries is independent and has their own government, they share the same sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II. When in each country or acting on its behalf, it is important to note that her title changes. So when acting in her role as the head of state of Australia, her title is: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth. Other members of the royal family, however, do not carry their UK titles into other realms. So for example HRH The Duke of Edinburgh is simply known as HRH Prince Philip in Australia and HRH The Duchess of Cambridge is not a Princess in her own right and is therefore HRH Princess William.
So what does having the Queen as a sovereign mean in practice? The day to day functioning of the country is handled by the Prime Minister and their Parliament. Her Majesty’s work in each of her realms varies slightly, but in all of them she holds both ceremonial and symbolic functions. For example, often it is in her name that honors and medals are bestowed upon those citizens who have given to their communities or country. She also provides a link to the country’s past.
With the Queen effectively so far away most of the time, she is represented in each realm by a Governor-General. That person has the same role on the ground within the realm as the Queen does in the United Kingdom. So while the monarch may often seem far away, the crown is always represented in each country and the Queen delegates most of her executive power to each Governor-General.
Just as in other monarchies, the crown offers something above politics to unite the citizens of the realms. While elections may turn over the government from liberal to conservative and back again, there is no need for people to feel that they have lost their sense of national identity. The realms each maintain a unique relationship with the Queen, and members of the royal family try to visit personally as often as possible. On the flip side, the idea of having a head of state that lives in another land certainly offers a debatable topic. In most of her realms, however, the Queen is extremely popular and the last referendum to try and change one of the realms to a republic in Australia failed handily. Jamaica is currently considering becoming a republic, but no plans have been put in motion and Prince Harry’s extremely popular visit may have put it off for the short term.