Prince Harry, 33, has been offered an official position with the Commonwealth in a bid to make the 53-member organisation more ‘relevant to a younger generation’
Prince Harry has been offered an official position with the Commonwealth, in a move to make the organisation more ‘relevant to a younger generation’.
The 33-year-old prince is expected to play a principal role at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, which runs from April 16 to 20.
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 independent sovereign states, that are mostly former territories of the British Empire, and covers a population of 2.4billion people.
The Queen, who turns 92 in April, was proclaimed Head of the Commonwealth at her coronation.
Harry, who is engaged to American actress Meghan Markle, 36, is also expected to take an interest in the organisation’s youth-related work and speak at the summit’s Commonwealth Youth Forum.
Seen as a boost to his position within the royal family, it is thought the foreign office and the government strongly back Harry’s involvement with the Commonwealth.
There is speculation Harry may take on an ambassadorial role at this year’s Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast, which will be opened by Prince Charles.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Dr Sue Onslow, deputy director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London, said: ‘It’s a very astute move giving Prince Harry a non-political, global role, drawing on his charisma and energy to help keep the Commonwealth and its headship relevant to a younger generation. This is soft-power diplomacy.’
Harry, pictured on an official visit to the Caribbean in 2016, is expected to take an interest in the organisation’s youth-related work and will speak at the Commonwealth Youth Forum
The news comes among speculation that senior Commonwealth officials will meet for secret talks to consider whether Prince Charles should take over as head of the organisation when the Queen dies.
A ‘high level group’ of seven leading figures will discuss ‘wider governance considerations’ – code for the succession, according to insiders – and is expected to report to the CHOGM on its findings.
This year’s meeting in April is expected to be the last attended by the Queen.
While the monarch has made it known that she wishes Prince Charles to succeed her, the head of the Commonwealth is not a hereditary position.
The foreign office and government are said to strongly back Prince Harry’s growing involvement in the Commonwealth and utilise his and fiancee Meghan Markle’s global appeal
Any decision about the future would have to be made by the Commonwealth heads of government at the time of the Queen’s death, but there is no formal process for choosing her successor.
While many Commonwealth figures presume there will be no realistic alternative to Charles, there has in the past been talk of electing a ceremonial leader to improve the organisation’s democratic credentials.
Her Majesty has been sending officials around the world to lobby Commonwealth leaders to ensure Prince Charles succeeds her.
News of Prince Harry’s role comes among speculation senior Commonwealth officials are discussing whether Prince Charles should take over as head when the Queen dies. The monarch (pictured in Uganda in 2007, has served as head of the Commonwealth since 1953
At the most recent CHOGM two years ago in Malta, the Queen said she could not ‘wish to have been better supported and represented in the Commonwealth than by the Prince of Wales who continues to give so much to it with great distinction’.
The developments will be of interest to Theresa May’s government, which has emphasised the importance of the Commonwealth post-Brexit.
In March last year, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson pointed out the Commonwealth will soon overtake the EU in terms of the size of its economy.
He said it illustrated how important it is to get good trade deals with the Commonwealth, and how the UK can survive outside the EU.