In a surprisingly direct message to leaders gathered for the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM), The Queen has told them it is her ‘sincere wish’ that Prince Charles should take over as head of the Commonwealth when he becomes King.
Representatives and Heads of Government from 53 Commonwealth nations gathered at Buckingham Palace this morning for the formal opening of the 2018 CHOGM. On Friday they will vote to decide who will replace The Queen as Commonwealth leader when she dies. The position of Head of the Commonwealth has been held by the British Monarch since the reign of King George VI, but the position’s succession has never been formalised, and therefore does not automatically fall to next in line to the throne; leaders will decide tomorrow if they want The Prince of Wales as their next head.
Addressing the world leaders in the ballroom, The Queen said: “It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity to future generations, and will decide that one day The Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949.”
There are apparent concerns within the Commonwealth that Prince Charles would not make a suitable head and there is a growing campaign to elect a leader on a rotational basis.
A statement on the Commonwealth Secretariat website states: “When The Queen dies or if she abdicates, her heir will not automatically become Head of the Commonwealth.
“It will be up to the Commonwealth heads of government to decide what they want to do about this symbolic role.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also spoken on the subject. “The Queen is obviously very personally committed to the Commonwealth. After her, I think it’s time for the Commonwealth to decide who its own president is on a rotational basis.”
However Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of Malta supports The Prince of Wales, as does the British government. Mr Muscat said: “We are certain that when Prince Charles is called upon he will provide a solid and passionate leadership.”
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) April 19, 2018
The Prince of Wales has taken a prominent role this week in the build up to Friday’s vote, attending many events and holding meetings with key Commonwealth leaders. He had just returned from a tour of Australia where he opened the Commonwealth Games.
The Queen began her speech to the Commonwealth leaders by welcoming them to Buckingham Palace: “Having on so many occasions been welcomed to opening ceremonies around the Commonwealth, it is a pleasure this time to welcome you to my own home.
“Here at Buckingham Palace in 1949, my father met the Heads of Government when they ratified the London Declaration, which created the Commonwealth as we know it today – then comprising just eight nations.
“Who then — or in 1952, when I became Head of the Commonwealth — would have guessed that a gathering of its member states would one day number 53, or that it would comprise 2.4 billion people?”
The Sovereign continued: “An increasing emphasis on trade between our countries is helping us all to discover exciting new ways of doing business. And imaginative initiatives have shown how together we can bring about change on a global scale. The Commonwealth Canopy has emphasised our interdependence, while the Commonwealth Blue Charter promises to do the same in protecting our shared ocean resources. The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is providing life-changing eye treatment to many thousands, through the generosity and cooperation of the nations represented here today.”
The Queen and Prince of Wales were supported at the ceremony by other members of the Royal Family including The Duchess of Cornwall, Princes William and Harry, The Duke of York, Princess Anne, The Countess of Wessex, The Duke of Kent, Princess Alexandra and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.
Clearly mindful of the importance of the occasion to the future role of a British Monarch in the Commonwealth, The Queen continued: “It remains a great pleasure and honour to serve you as Head of the Commonwealth and to observe, with pride and satisfaction, that this is a flourishing network. It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations, and will decide that one day The Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949.
“By continuing to treasure and reinvigorate our associations and activities, I believe we will secure a safer, more prosperous and sustainable world for those who follow us: a world where the Commonwealth’s generosity of spirit can bring its gentle touch of healing and hope to all.”
Her Majesty concluded by saying: “Mindful as always that this summit of Commonwealth leaders draws its mandate and authority from our member countries collectively, it gives me great pleasure to declare this meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government open.”
Musical performances were also part of the opening, including renditions of folk music from across the 53 countries and short speeches from those who had made an impact in the Commonwealth.
The Prince of Wales then addressed the leaders, and again used the emphasis of continuity and stability as his theme for how best the Commonwealth can continue to grow and develop.
Prince Charles said: “For my part, the Commonwealth has been a fundamental feature of my life for as long as I can remember, beginning with my first visit to Malta when I was just five years old. I consider myself fortunate over the years to have been able to meet and talk with so many of the giants of the Commonwealth – Sir Robert Menzies; Kwame Nkrumah; Sir Keith Holyoake; Jomo Kenyatta; Pierre Trudeau; Kenneth Kaunda; Julius Nyerere; Lee Kuan Yew and many more. On the foundations they laid, the modern Commonwealth has a vital role to play in building bridges between our countries, fairer societies within them and a more secure world around them.”
He concluded: “And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, I pray that this Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will not only revitalize the bonds between our countries, but will also give the Commonwealth a renewed relevance to all citizens, finding practical solutions to their problems and giving life to their aspirations. By doing so, the Commonwealth can be a cornerstone for the lives of future generations, just as it has been for so many of us.”
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) April 19, 2018
At the conclusion of the ceremony Kinetika Bloco and Dhol Drummers performed on The Mall to celebrate the summit opening.
This evening the Queen will host a State Dinner for the Commonwealth Leaders and other dignitaries.