Prince Charles to be next head of Commonwealth

State leaders honour Queen’s wishes and agree Prince of Wales should succeed monarch

Commonwealth leaders have formally announced that Prince Charles will become the next head of the organisation after the Queen.

As they returned from a “retreat” hosted by the Queen at Windsor Castle on Friday, leaders issued a statement confirming the news, which had emerged earlier in the day.

“We recognise the role of the Queen in championing the Commonwealth and its peoples. The next head of the Commonwealth shall be his Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales,” they said.

The role is not hereditary, but the Queen, who turns 92 on Saturday, used the Commonwealth heads of government (Chogm) gathering in London to say it was her “sincere wish” to be succeeded by her son.

After the Queen made her wishes known, there would have been little prospect of the 53 Commonwealth leaders and foreign ministers, who met at Buckingham Palace on Thursday, not endorsing the plan.

Asked at the summit’s closing press conference whether any leaders had expressed dissent, Theresa May insisted the decision had been unanimous.

“His Royal Highness has been a proud supporter of the Commonwealth for more than four decades and has spoken passionately about the organisation’s unique diversity. And it is fitting that, one day, he will continue the work of his mother, Her Majesty The Queen,” she said.

Addressing what is most likely her last Chogm summit – she no longer flies long distances and it is not due to return to the UK for some years – the monarch said: “It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations, and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949.”

In the statement, issued at a press conference in Lancaster House, the leaders highlighted the Commonwealth’s “unique perspective” and “consensus-based approach”.

They highlighted a series of joint challenges the countries had agreed to tackle together, including climate change - particularly with reference to “small island developing states”; chemical weapons; countering extremism and human trafficking.

May also used the summit to highlight the UK’s role in tackling plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, launching new proposals to ban plastic straws and cotton buds.

Earlier on Friday, the foreign minister of Vanuatu, Ralph Regenvanu, supported Charles, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “we see it almost naturally that it should be the British royal family because it is the Commonwealth after all”.

He added that there was no discussion in the island state regarding a different Commonwealth leader.

At a Buckingham Palace dinner on Thursday evening, the president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, said he had been “made to understand she’ll be winding down her duties as head of the Commonwealth”.

The Queen has been head of the Commonwealth since coming to the throne in 1952.

Earlier in the week, Prince Charles gave a speech underlining his knowledge of the Commonwealth.

He had a series of bilateral meetings this week, including with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, and the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.

In a speech to the gathering on Thursday, Prince Charles said the Commonwealth had been, “a fundamental feature of my life for as long as I can remember, beginning with my first visit to Malta when I was just five years old”.

• This article was amended on 23 April 2018. Narendra Modi is the prime minister of India, not the president as an earlier version said.


Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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