Charles endorsed for Commonwealth role thanks to Queen’s lobbying

·5-min read
The Prince of Wales speaking at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, Sri Lanka (Chris Jackson/PA) (PA Archive)
The Prince of Wales speaking at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, Sri Lanka (Chris Jackson/PA) (PA Archive)

Charles, the new king, will be head of the Commonwealth.

World leaders confirmed that he would succeed his mother in the symbolic role following the Commonwealth summit in London in April 2018.

Their decision came after a highly unusual personal appeal from the Queen for her son to be chosen.

At the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), she said: “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.”

Although the Queen took over from her father, George VI, the post is not a hereditary position.

It was up to leaders of the then 53 member states to decide on its future.

Their approval of Charles came a day after the Queen’s public lobbying as they gathered at a Windsor Castle retreat.

“We recognise the role of the Queen in championing the Commonwealth and its peoples,” their joint statement said.

“The next head of the Commonwealth shall be His Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.”

Charles said he was “deeply touched and honoured” by his endorsement.

There had been speculation for some time about whether he would be given the post.

His involvement at Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting events stepped up in the preceding years, amid suggestions that attempts were being made to secure his position.

He formally opened the summit in Sri Lanka in 2013, representing his mother in the role for the first time – a significant move for him as a king-in-waiting.

The then-Commonwealth secretary-general, Kamalesh Sharma, spoke of how Charles’s support for the Commonwealth had “deepened” its connections to the Crown.

The Prince of Wales at CHOGM in Colombo, Sri Lanka (Chris Jackson/PA)
The Prince of Wales at CHOGM in Colombo, Sri Lanka (Chris Jackson/PA)

Charles has spoken passionately about the Commonwealth.

In a speech in Singapore during his autumn tour of 2017, he described how much it meant to him personally, saying it had been a “cornerstone” of his life.

In Malaysia the same year, he also stressed how the Commonwealth can play a “pivotal” role in tackling global challenges, drawing on its “wide range of national contexts, experiences, traditions”.

It was in 2007 that Charles attended an overseas CHOGM for the first time.

The opening ceremony in Uganda was performed by the Queen, but the prince supported her visit.

It was seen as a move towards encouraging the member nations to back him as the association’s future head.

In 2015, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall also accompanied the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in Malta, when the Queen opened the CHOGM summit.

– The head of state debate

Charles as king raises questions about the overseas nations where the Queen is head of state.

The Queen was also head of state in 14 countries as well as the UK, notably Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Amid a new reign, some of these nations could decide to sever their ties with the British monarchy and become republics.

Barbados, previously one of the Queen’s realms, became a republic in November 2021, with Charles there to witness the historic transition during a televised open-air ceremony in the capital Bridgetown.

The decision to remove the Queen as head of state was watched closely by other members of the Commonwealth especially in the Caribbean region.

In 2012, the then Jamaican prime minister Portia Simpson Miller vowed to drop the Queen as monarch.

“I love the Queen, she is a beautiful lady,” Mrs Simpson Miller said as she was sworn in for a second time as PM. She added in Jamaican patois: “But I think time come.”

In 2006, Australia’s then-prime minister John Howard cast doubt on whether the Prince of Wales would become king of Australia.

“I do not believe Australia will become a republic while the Queen in on the throne,” he said. But, he added: “Beyond that, I don’t know.”

In 1999, Australia held a referendum on proposals to become a republic and replace the Queen with a president.

The idea was rejected, with about 54% of the population voting No.

In 2016, the then Australian premier Malcolm Turnbull reaffirmed his support for an Australian republic, but said the country would not support the change happening before the end of the Queen’s reign.

In 2018, the then PM Scott Morrison voiced strong support for keeping the Queen as the country’s head of state, declaring a picture of her is “back up in the PM’s office”.

Now with Charles on the throne, momentum is likely to gather for an Australian republic with its own head of state.

  • Australia

  • New Zealand

  • Canada

  • Jamaica

  • Antigua and Barbuda

  • Belize

  • Papua New Guinea

  • St Christopher and Nevis

  • St Vincent and the Grenadines

  • Tuvalu

  • Grenada

  • Solomon Islands

  • St Lucia

  • The Bahamas.

There are 14 Commonwealth Realms, where the country had the Queen as its monarch, in addition to the UK: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Papua New Guinea, St Christopher and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tuvalu, Grenada, Solomon Islands, St Lucia and The Bahamas.

The modern Commonwealth, of which there are now 56 member states, was established by the London Declaration of 1949, just two years after India and Pakistan were granted independence.

The London Declaration said that the British monarch would be a symbol of the free association of independent countries, and as such the head of the Commonwealth.

This meant republics could be members and accept the Queen as head of the Commonwealth without her being their own head of state.