An exclusive report from the BBC has revealed the Commonwealth countries will have a secret meeting, led by a group of seven “high-level” individuals, to discuss future governance, including whether the person who succeeds the Queen will be the leader of the group of nations.
According to the BBC, the group will meet to discuss the way the Commonwealth is governed during a get-together at Marlborough House, the Commonwealth’s London headquarters. While the issue of succession is not listed in the group’s mandate, senior sources told the BBC that the succession would be discussed at the gathering.
The agenda for the summit, which has been seen by the BBC, says there will be a discussion of “wider governance considerations”. Insiders revealed to reporters that the statement was code for the succession plans for when Queen Elizabeth steps down or dies.
The monarch has begun to distribute her official duties to other members of the royal family in recent years – a move that has apparently prompted the Commonwealth to devise a plan in case she stands down from her position. Many assume the Queen, who turns 92 in April, will be succeeded by Prince Charles, particularly because her oldest son has already begun taking over many of his mother’s royal responsibilities.
The Times reported on January 1 that Charles was rolling back his charitable work to make room for his new “kingly” duties. The paper cited sources from Clarence House who confirmed the prince was adjusting his schedule to help out his mother by lightening the load and balancing his responsibilities.
The source reportedly said to the newspaper that “the approach of the Prince’s 70th birthday provided a sensible opportunity to review his charities to ensure that they continue to deliver the maximum benefit for those people they were set up to help.”
In 2017 alone the prince attended 546 official royal engagements, a number that will continue to increase as he reduces the Queen’s workload further. Prince Charles will, for example, fill in for the Queen at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April.
However, his succession as head of the Commonwealth is not a sure thing as the succession to that role is not a hereditary position that will automatically pass to Charles. For Prince Charles to succeed as ruler of the historic group, he will still need the approval of the 52 member states of the Commonwealth other than Britain. There has been talk in the past of electing a ceremonial leader to build on the organisation’s democratic credentials.
A source told the BBC that the group would discuss whether there should be a one-off decision to appoint Prince Charles or whether it should develop a new process to ensure a British monarch always heads the Commonwealth.
“There are various formulas being played with,” the source said. “Should it always be the heir to the throne or Prince Charles himself? Is it the person or the position?”
The Queen, however, has made her preference known – reportedly working and lobbying in private to ensure her son becomes leader. At the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the Queen sung Charles’ praise, saying 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”.
Studies into the royals’ likability, however, have shown that the general population has a greater love of Prince William and Prince Harry. Many have suggested they would rather see one of the younger royals at the helm of the Commonwealth.
The Sun reports that if the Commonwealth states block Charles from becoming leader, the position would likely be given to a dignitary from Africa, the Caribbean or Australasia.
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