Commonwealth leaders are today set to decide if Prince Charles will succeed the Queen as its new figurehead after his mother implored them to give her son the job.
His mother’s unprecedented plea for the Prince of Wales to get the job came amid pressure from critics including Jeremy Corbyn who said it should now go to a foreign leader or be rotated between members.
The heads of the 53 nations who make up the organisation, which is mostly made up of former territories of the British Empire, will meet in private today at Windsor Castle to decide.
But Charles’s hopes were given a massive boost on Thursday, when the Queen publicly endorsed his future leadership at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in London.
Officially opening the summit at a ceremony in the Buckingham Palace ballroom, the Queen said it was her ‘sincere wish’ that the Commonwealth ‘will decide that one day the Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949’.
Commonwealth leaders are today set to decide if Prince Charles will succeed the Queen (pictured together last night) as its new figurehead after his mother implored them to give her son the job
Charles, the Prince of Wales, greets Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after he backed him for his mother’s job
The unprecedented move was thought likely to end years of speculation about who will take over as head of the institution her father King George VI first led in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau said on Thursday: ‘I very much agree with the wishes of Her Majesty that the Prince of Wales be the next head of the Commonwealth.’
And Keith Mitchell, the prime minister of Grenada, told the BBC: ‘It would be good news, the Queen herself does very well and certainly we have been fortunate to have her leadership of stable leadership over this period.
‘But having the Prince of Wales would certainly not be an unhelpful act at this point in time.’
And the organisation’s outgoing chair-in-office, Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat, appeared to take Charles’s future role for granted when he told delegates: ‘We are certain that, when he will be called upon to do so, he will provide solid and passionate leadership for our Commonwealth.’
But the succession is not automatic, with the decision in the hands of the heads of government of the 53 Commonwealth states.
While they are widely expected to fulfil the hopes expressed by the Queen, there was no official confirmation that Charles will be offered the role on Friday.
The Queen was hailed as an ‘icon’ of the Commonwealth and she has asked them to have her son as its new head
In a toast to the monarch at a Buckingham Palace dinner for leaders and foreign ministers from the Commonwealth’s 53 nations, Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo, offered their thanks to her
Britain’s Prince William speaks to guests during a reception at the Queen’s Dinner for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
Prince Harry speaks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a reception after a receiving line
Spokesmen could not even confirm that any decision would be announced at a press conference following the leaders’ retreat at Windsor Castle.
Prime Minister Theresa May has already given her backing to Prince Charles, with her official spokesman saying: ‘The Government supports the Prince of Wales as the next head of the Commonwealth. He has been a proud supporter of the Commonwealth for more than four decades.’
What is the Commonwealth?
Known formally as the Commonwealth of Nations, the group is a free association of 53 member states.
It dates back about 75 years and followed the decolonisation of the British Empire.
As countries sought greater self-governance in the mid-20th century, a new body was set up which united members states not by any legal obligation, but instead by shared values of democracy, freedom of speech and human rights.
The Commonwealth was formally constituted by the London Declaration, which established the members as ‘free and equal’ in 1949.
The Queen remains head of state for 16 member states, she has no formal position in several other nations of the Commonwealth, such as India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
The Commonwealth accounts for about a third of the planet’s population, or 2.4 billion people.
It has been widely assumed that the Queen, who celebrates her 92nd birthday on Saturday, is probably presiding over her last Chogm in person as she has not taken a long-haul flight for a number of years and the venue for the biennial summit moves around the globe, with the UK only hosting it three times in the last 32 years.
The Queen has been head of the Commonwealth since coming to the throne in 1952, but the position is not automatically held by the British monarch.
Her Majesty was hailed as an ‘icon’ of the Commonwealth last night by an African statesman who expressed the organisation’s regret that she plans to wind down her work with it.
In a toast to the monarch at a Buckingham Palace dinner for leaders and foreign ministers from the Commonwealth’s 53 nations, Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo, offered their thanks to her.
‘We’re led to to understand that she’ll be winding down her duties as head of the Commonwealth,’ he said of the Queen.
‘This toast thus takes on an added significance, for it falls upon me to express the depth of our collective regret that she will no longer automatically be present at our proceedings.
‘It is my fervent hope that the deep love she has held for this association will continue to light the way for all of us.’ He paid tribute to her ability to put visiting politicians at their ease and told 130 guests in the Picture Gallery: ‘She will always be an icon of the Commonwealth.’
The Queen hosted a dinner for Commonwealth leaders and their spouses last night in the Buckingham Palace Picture Gallery. Pictured l-r: The Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland and Prime Minister Theresa May in the Blue Drawing Room
Prime Minister Theresa May was one of the first to arrive to the dinner, wearing a dark green and black evening gown with red patent heels, and was accompanied by her husband Philip May
The dinner, the first time that the Queen has hosted an evening meal in the Picture Gallery, had the air of a farewell party for the monarch, who will be 92 on Saturday and no longer travels abroad.
In an ivory white, beaded lace dress decorated with crystal daisies and designed by Angela Kelly, the Queen, wearing the Queen Mart tiara, a ruby and diamond necklace with matching earrings, and the Garter Star, welcomes her guests to her home.
‘It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all here tonight. As head of the Commonwealth, I am delighted to be able to host this occasion in the United Kingdom, for the first time in many years.
‘This dinner is always an opportunity for us to come together, as friends, and I am grateful that so many of you are here with us this time.’ ‘I know that all of my family join me in wishing you a very enjoyable evening. Thank you.’
The younger royals were out in force at the dinner. The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry were joined by their cousins Princess Beatrice and Eugenie as well as older members of the family.
The Queen looked especially delighted to greet Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.