Queen Elizabeth II has said it is her ‘sincere wish’ that her son, Prince Charles, carries on her work as leader of the Commonwealth ahead of a critical decision on who shall serve as head of the group due on Friday.
Speaking at the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London on Thursday, her Majesty said she never could have guessed that in 1952 when she became leader of what was then eight nations, it would later comprise 53 and 2.4 billion people.
“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,” she said, ahead of her 92nd birthday on Saturday.
“By continuing to treasure and reinvigorate our associations and activities, I believe we will secure a safer, more prosperous and sustainable world for those who follow us: a world where the Commonwealth’s generosity of spirit can bring its gentle touch of healing and hope to all.”
The comments are the first by the monarch to tacitly address the issue of succession at what is widely regarded to be her last Heads of Government meeting as she no longer travels long distances.
The next biannual summit will take place in Malaysia and she recently sent Prince Charles as her representative to the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
However the Queen also noted she was “mindful as always that this summit of Commonwealth leaders draws its mandate and authority from our member countries collectively” in declaring the summit open.
Leaders will discuss the issue of succession at a leaders’s retreat on Friday at Windsor, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will marry in just under one month’s time.
While the monarch does not have to serve as head of the Commonwealth, Australia supports the “continuation of the British monarch” in the role, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said this week.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May also paid tribute to the Queen in her opening speech, offering “heartfelt thanks” for her service in the role over many decades.
“Over many years you have been the Commonwealth’s most steadfast and permanent champion,” she said.
“You have seen us through some of our most serious challenges. And we commit to sustaining this Commonwealth, which you have so carefully nurtured.
“For your service, for your dedication, for your constancy – we thank you.”
Prince Charles described the meeting as an “occasion to celebrate with renewed pride our remarkable Commonwealth family.”
“The modern commonwealth has a vital role to play in building bridges between our countries,” he said.
“I pray that this CHOGM meeting will not ony revitalise the bonds between our countries but give the Commonwealth a renewed relevance to all its citizens.”
It’s the first time the UK has hosted the summit since 1997 in which leaders will meet to discuss global issues like climate change, trade, security and democracy.
On Thursday evening UK time, the Queen will host a dinner at Buckingham Palace for heads of government and their spouses and partners ahead of a leader’s retreat on Friday at Windsor Castle