A controversial history, with references to Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn and Hester Prynne

Ireland became a republic because it was always a republic. The United Kingdom intended to have a new nationhood rooted in the Protestant traditions of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and in the Magna Carta. If there was to be a new nation, Westminster wanted it to be a republic with no medieval monarchs. One of the country’s great soldiers and men of letters, Kenneth Grahame, introduced the constitution of England in 1713. One man presided over it. William Henry Stuart, “the Earl of Hanover,” was “a Roman Catholic,” just like those northern king-emperors with whom Shakespeare hung out. He didn’t know that he was the same man who made the English an empire. He knew that he was the man who was not only a Catholic but who had yet to be seduced by those real courtiers in the Catholic Kingdom of Denmark of which his bride, Anne Boleyn, was Empress and then Queen — one of the serious errors of imperial governance.

In part, Stuart meant to create something but never got quite there. England’s birth might have been as a republic, but it had yet to become a nation. It remained a commonwealth in political as well as cultural as religious terms. While tribal allegiances varied (the Protestant as they say of today’s British) and different forms of Catholic independence persisted, England was a constitutional monarchy, and it remained a largely feudal society that had not followed many of the republican paths of France, Spain or Germany. It was an inheritance sustained by centuries of rule over a number of islands, largest of which, of course, was Barbados, the oldest and most frequently inhabited island in the Caribbean. The Republic of Barbados now begins because the island became a country some ten years ago, but it hasn’t come without its problems and upheavals.

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