KIGALI (Reuters) - Britain's Prince Charles on Friday acknowledged growing republican sentiment in some Commonwealth nations that currently have his mother Queen Elizabeth as head of state, saying it was for them to decide their constitutional arrangements.
The Commonwealth is a 54-member club that evolved from the British Empire. The queen is head of state of 15 of its members, including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, Belize, the Bahamas and Papua New Guinea.
Addressing the opening ceremony of a summit of Commonwealth leaders in Rwanda, Charles said "we meet and talk as equals" and that while some member states had constitutional relationships with his family, a growing number did not.
"I want to say clearly, as I have said before, that each member's constitutional arrangement, as republic or monarchy, is purely a matter for each member country to decide," he said.
"The benefit of long life brings me the experience that arrangements such as these can change calmly and without rancour," said Charles, who is 73. "We should never forget the things which do not change, the close and trusted partnership between Commonwealth members."
The remarks will have particular resonance in the Caribbean, a region where post-colonial ties to Britain and its royal family are being questioned and in some cases upended.
Barbados ditched the monarchy to become a republic last November. Jamaica, Belize and the Bahamas have signalled they may follow suit soon.
Britain and its royal family have no power to stop any of the queen's realms from becoming republics, but Charles' comments suggest he believes it is in the interests of the monarchy's long-term future to be gracious about it.
His son Prince William, who is second in line to the throne, told Caribbean nations in March that he supported "with pride and respect" their decisions about their future.
(Reporting by Ayenat Mersie; Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Gareth Jones)