What Exactly Is ‘The Commonwealth’?

At its height, the British Empire was the largest in human history. Encompassing over 23% of the world’s population and 24% of the Earth’s total land area, it became known as the “empire on which the sun never sets”.

In the 19th century, as the Empire began to disintegrate, many of its former colonies gained varying degrees of independence from Britain.

Today, many of these newly independent countries form what is now known as the Commonwealth, a flourishing, vibrant collective of nations working together to help each other on the world stage.

What is the Commonwealth?

The Commonwealth of Nations – otherwise known as ‘the Commonwealth’ – is a voluntary political association of 56 sovereign member states that were once part of the British Empire. It is one of the oldest political associations of states in the world.

Why is it called the Commonwealth?

The term ‘Commonwealth’ actually came from the era of Oliver Cromwell, when the infamous Lord Protector’s fledgeling republic was nicknamed ‘The Commonwealth of England’. The term, quite literally, means ‘common well-being’.

What is a ‘Commonwealth Realm’?

A ‘Commonwealth Realm’ is a country which had Queen Elizabeth II as its constitutional monarch. Despite this association, it should be noted that these countries are all self-governing, sovereign states and united only in their (entirely voluntary) connection with the British monarchy.

Commonwealth Countries

With 56 members, it goes without saying that the Commonwealth comprises a large part of the world and its population, with states from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas and the Pacific. That’s around 2.5 billion people.

With so many members, it goes without saying that there are plenty of incredible places to visit.

Visit the whitest sand beach in the world, the incredible Great Barrier Reef and lush rainforests of Australia, explore the crystal-clear glacial lakes and mountains of Canada or go on a safari adventure in South Africa – the possibilities are endless.

Did you know?

There’s even a Commonwealth Games, a multi-sports event similar to the Olympics occurring every four years that involves all members of the Commonwealth. The games started in 1930 in Canada and have been going on ever since.