Nine things the Queen has said about the Commonwealth she gave 'heart and soul' to

·6-min read

It’s said to be her proudest achievement as Queen.

The Commonwealth involves 54 nations, covering a third of the world’s population and was brought together in the wake of the British Empire.

As its head for seven decades, the Queen has visited nearly every member state and formed strong relationships with heads of government across the nations over the years.

She receives regular updates on the Commonwealth nations, and through the coronavirus pandemic, called leaders to speak to them directly about how their countries were faring against the disease.

In her 2020 Commonwealth Day message, she called it a “special community” and it’s often referred to as her “beloved” Commonwealth.

It’s been said that her grandson’s comments about the Commonwealth needing to look at its past will upset her. Here are some of the key comments she has made about the Commonwealth.

Read more: Queen's royal homes to reopen within weeks as staff braced for job cuts

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 09: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Queen Elizabeth II attends the Commonwealth Day Service 2020 at Westminster Abbey on March 9, 2020 in London, England. The Commonwealth represents 2.4 billion people and 54 countries, working in collaboration towards shared economic, environmental, social and democratic goals. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
The Queen at the 2020 Commonwealth Day service in London. (Getty Images)

‘This ancient commonwealth - which we all love dearly’

If we all go forward together with an unwavering faith, a high courage, and a quiet heart, we shall be able to make of this ancient commonwealth, which we all love so dearly, an even grander thing - more free, more prosperous, more happy and a more powerful influence for good in the world - than it has been in the greatest days of our forefathers.

To accomplish that we must give nothing less than the whole of ourselves. There is a motto which has been borne by many of my ancestors - a noble motto, "I serve". Those words were an inspiration to many bygone heirs to the Throne when they made their knightly dedication as they came to manhood. I cannot do quite as they did.

A speech given on her 21st birthday, still as Princess Elizabeth, in Cape Town, South Africa.

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh (behind) arrive in Nairobi for their Commonwealth Tour.   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh (behind) on Commonwealth Tour in 1952. (Getty Images)

The Commonwealth is a new conception

Thus formed, the Commonwealth bears no resemblance to the Empires of the past. It is an entirely new conception, built on the highest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty and the desire for freedom and peace.

To that new conception of an equal partnership of nations and races I shall give myself heart and soul every day of my life.

Her Christmas Day message in 1953.

I cannot lead you into battle - but I can give you my heart

It has always been easy to hate and destroy. To build and to cherish is much more difficult. That is why we can take a pride in the new Commonwealth we are building.

This year Ghana and Malaya joined our brotherhood. Both these countries are now entirely self-governing. Both achieved their new status amicably and peacefully.

This advance is a wonderful tribute to the efforts of men of goodwill who have worked together as friends, and I welcome these two countries with all my heart.

In the old days the monarch led his soldiers on the battlefield and his leadership at all times was close and personal.

Today things are very different. I cannot lead you into battle, I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else, I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.

The Queen’s Christmas Day message in 1957.

Read more: Prince Harry and Meghan say people will be 'uncomfortable' as racism and unconscious bias are tackled across the Commonwealth

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 29:  Queen Elizabeth II greets well-wishers on the final day of the Queen's Australian tour at the Great Aussie BBQ on October 29, 2011 in Perth, Australia. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited Canberra, Brisbane, and Melbourne before heading to Perth for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. The end of this visit marks the Queen's 16th to Australia.  (Photo by Murty Colin - Pool/Getty Images)
The Queen has made dozens of visits to her Commonwealth countries, like Australia, here in 2011. (Getty Images)

The European Economic Community poses no threat

The new links with Europe will not replace those with the Commonwealth. They cannot alter our historical and personal attachments with kinsmen and friends overseas. Old friends will not be lost; Britain will take her Commonwealth links into Europe with her.

The Queen’s Christmas Day message in 1972.

The Commonwealth stands for what all mankind needs

The Jubilee celebrations in London started with a Service of Thanksgiving in St. Paul's Cathedral. To me this was a thanksgiving for all the good things for which our Commonwealth stands - the comradeship and co-operation it inspires and the friendship and tolerance it encourages. These are the qualities needed by all mankind.

Her Christmas Day message in 1977.

The Commonwealth can make a major contribution

Out of the old Empire sprang the Commonwealth family of nations that we know today, and that, too, has grown and changed over the years. In October, 51 representatives of Commonwealth governments met in Edinburgh, very much in the spirit of a family gathering. We all enjoy meeting old friends and making new ones, but there was also important business to be done. The world saw that the Commonwealth can make a major contribution to international relations and prosperity.

Her Christmas Day message in 1997.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 20:  Queen, Prince Philip And Nelson Mandela In South Africa  (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
Nelson Mandela was close with the Queen in part because of the Commonwealth. (Getty Images)

The Commonwealth helped bring the end of Apartheid in South Africa

Politically, the Commonwealth sees its diversity as a strength. That was certainly true of its invaluable contribution to the ending of Apartheid in South Africa. The practical assistance it is able to offer in such crucial areas reflects the kaleidoscope of its membership and its expertise.

As a result, the Commonwealth was able to work with all the different communities of what is now proudly called "the rainbow nation". Bridging social and political divides has also been a feature of the Commonwealth's continuing work in seeking to encourage democracy, good governance, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.

The Queen’s Commonwealth Day message in 2002.

Read more: Hotel loved by the Queen and the Duchess of Cambridge set to reopen

The greater the diversity, the greater the gains

This is an essential ingredient of belonging to the Commonwealth: the willingness to share, to exchange and to act for the common good. By including others, drawing on collective insights, knowledge and resources, and thinking and working together, we lay the foundations of a harmonious and progressive society. The greater the diversity of those included in such a shared enterprise, the greater the gains. Each of us has cause to celebrate the sense of belonging expressed in our 2016 theme: 'An Inclusive Commonwealth'.

Her Commonwealth Day message in 2016.

The impact of the Commonwealth is real

We are able to look to the future with greater confidence and optimism as a result of the links that we share, and thanks to the networks of cooperation and mutual support to which we contribute, and on which we draw. With enduring commitment through times of great change, successive generations have demonstrated that whilst the goodwill for which the Commonwealth is renowned may be intangible, its impact is very real.

A speech given on Commonwealth Day in the 70th anniversary year.