Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

British heir Prince Charles to be Commonwealth head

After a personal plea from Queen Elizabeth, Commonwealth leaders have declared Prince Charles will be the next head of the body

Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales speaks at the formal opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Buckingham Palace in London. Yui Mok / AFP Photo.
Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales speaks at the formal opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Buckingham Palace in London. Yui Mok / AFP Photo.

Prince Charles was approved as the successor to Queen Elizabeth as head of the Commonwealth at a meeting of the group's heads of government in Windsor on Friday, securing a royal link first established in 1949.

There had been calls for the role to be rotated around the 53 member-states, most of which are former British territories, but in recent days The Queen, the British government and other leaders have backed Prince Charles to take on the role.

The 91-year-old monarch spoke directly on Thursday of her hopes the Prince of Wales would succeed her. The decision was taken collectively by Commonwealth heads of government at a private retreat at the royal residence west of London.

"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," the Queen said, referring to Charles.

The British government has backed Princes Charles to succeed his mother, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he agreed "very much" with the queen's wishes.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said: "We are certain that when he will be called upon to do so, he will provide a solid and passionate leadership for our Commonwealth."


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Other topics on the agenda at the Commonwealth meeting include cybersecurity, trade and protecting the world's oceans.

Britain has tried to use the biennial meeting to reinvigorate a group that takes in 2.4 billion people on five continents. Over decades it has struggled to carve out a distinct place on the world stage. London wants to lay the groundwork for new trade deals with Commonwealth nations after Britain leaves the European Union next year.

But the summit has been overshadowed by uproar over the treatment by British immigration authorities of some long-term British residents from the Caribbean.

Theresa May, the prime minister, apologised after it emerged that some people who settled in Britain in the decades after the Second World War had recently been refused medical care or threatened with deportation because they could not produce paperwork to show their right to reside in Britain.

The government says they accidentally fell foul of new measures intended to clamp down on illegal immigration. But opposition politicians say the treatment of the "Windrush generation" — named for the ship Empire Windrush, which brought the first big group of post-war Caribbean immigrants to Britain in 1948 — is cause for national shame.

The scandal deepened with the revelation that officials several years ago destroyed thousands of landing cards of postwar migrants, which could have helped people prove their status.

Updated: April 20, 2018 08:44 PM