Commonwealth champion Meghan celebrated by Secretary-General

By Tony Jones, Press Association Court Correspondent

The Duchess of Sussex has been given a ringing endorsement by the Commonwealth’s Secretary-General, who has praised her contribution to the family of nations.

Meghan has taken on important roles with the institution during her first year as a member of the monarchy and was described by Baroness Scotland as a “young, vibrant, professional woman” who is dedicating herself to public service.

The Secretary-General, who was born in the Commonwealth country of Dominica and brought up in the UK, acknowledged the duchess’ background would be relevant to many across the globe, but stressed there had been other mixed-race members of the monarchy.

In an interview to mark the family of nations’ 70th anniversary, the Secretary-General agreed with the suggestion citizens from the Commonwealth’s culturally diverse 2.4 billion population would say Meghan “looks like me”.

Baroness Scotland, speaking about the duke and duchess, who is due to give birth imminently, told the Press Association: “I think the fact they are a young, committed couple, that they are both sharing such a deep interest in young people and in issues of learning and development, has been an inspiration for many of those young people – and they love to see them.

“I think her contribution as a young, vibrant, professional woman who is now going to dedicate herself to public service, is a great example, a great example.

“Our Commonwealth is very, very mixed but as someone said to me lots of people are getting very excited about the fact the duchess is mixed race, she’s not the first mixed race person to go into the royal family and people tend to forget that.”

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with Baroness Scotland, arrive to attend the Your Commonwealth Youth Challenge reception at Marlborough House in London (Yui Mok/PA)

It is thought Queen Charlotte, who was married to George III, was of African descent and she has been described as Britain’s first black Queen.

With 60% of Commonwealth citizens aged 29 or under, the duke and duchess’ appeal to the young is being capitalised on.

Meghan is patron of the Association of Commonwealth Universities and vice president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust (QCT), which champions youth around the world, while Harry is the QCT’s president and the Commonwealth’s Youth Ambassador.

The modern Commonwealth was formed in 1949 when eight countries – Australia, Britain, Ceylon, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Canada – signed the Declaration of London exactly 70 years ago – April 26, 1949 – after a six-day conference.

Meghan and Harry pictured at a women’s empowerment reception during last year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the UK (Chris Jackson/PA)

In the past, commentators have criticised the Commonwealth for its apparent weakness, illustrated by what critics called “dithering” during the political crisis in Zimbabwe that finally culminated in the country being suspended from the institution.

But supporters of the family of nations believe it has allowed countries to unify on common causes like climate change or challenging Apartheid and ultimately, through unity, affect change.

Throughout her reign the Queen has been a passionate supporter of the family of nations which she heads and the Secretary-General said they had benefited from “her wisdom, her support, and her total lifelong commitment”.

Charles was named as the next head of the Commonwealth when the leaders of its member nations met at Windsor Castle last year, another example of the gentle handover of responsibilities from the Queen to her son and heir.

The Queen gives the opening address at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting staged in the UK in 2018 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Baroness Scotland, a former attorney general, said: “I think the Commonwealth and his royal highness have a lot in common, because of course in 1989 when the Commonwealth was raising the issues of climate change, if you remember there weren’t many people who were flying that particular flag.

“The Commonwealth have been pushing quite strongly the idea of regenerative development, that we need to be more holistic, we need to take care of our environment and we need to give back to it and nurture it – well can you think of someone else who’s been saying that for all that time.

“The Prince of Wales has been committed to that agenda for as long as I can remember but also (with) the Prince’s Trust he’s been committed to young people, and he’s been committed to making sure that the young people who are disadvantaged and forgotten (are supported).”