Fam­ily of na­tions skips a gen­er­a­tion ... for now

She has been head of the Com­mon­wealth since she came to the throne, but who will suc­ceed the Queen?

Yorkshire Post - - NEWS - DAVID BEHRENS COUNTY CORRESPONDENT ■ Email: david.behrens@ypn.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @york­shire­post

SHE HAS been its head since she came to the throne, as was her fa­ther be­fore her, and its ad­vance­ment has helped to de­fine her reign.

But sup­port for the Queen to pass on to her successor the stew­ard­ship of the or­gan­i­sa­tion for­merly known as the Bri­tish Com­mon­wealth ap­peared last night to be thread­bare.

In­stead, the Com­mon­wealth of Na­tions – its of­fi­cial ti­tle since just af­ter the war – skipped a gen­er­a­tion as the spotlight moved to Prince Harry and the woman he will marry next month, inset. Ap­pointed a Com­mon­wealth Youth Am­bas­sador by his grand­mother, he helped open the fo­rum which launched the Com­mon­wealth Heads of Govern­ment Meet­ing yes­ter­day, and said his fi­ancee Meghan Markle was “hugely ex­cited” to be join­ing him.

But it is the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s top billing that is up­per­most on its agenda – and in par­tic­u­lar whether the Prince of Wales – who two weeks ago opened the Com­mon­wealth Games on his mother’s be­half – should suc­ceed her as its head.

The sym­bolic po­si­tion is not handed down au­to­mat­i­cally to the Queen’s successor, and both the Prime Min­is­ter and For­eign Sec­re­tary sug­gested it should be left to the 53 mem­ber states to de­cide.

The Com­mon­wealth has its roots in a dec­la­ra­tion by the Earl of Bal­four at the 1926 Im­pe­rial Con­fer­ence of Bri­tish Em­pire lead­ers. Af­ter the war, the Bri­tish monarch was recog­nised as its head, and the Queen took it to her heart, pro­mot­ing it in her first Christ­mas mes­sage fol­low­ing her corona­tion. But yes­ter­day, both Clarence House and Down­ing Street were keep­ing their coun­sel over whether Charles would take over.

Theresa May’s of­fi­cial spokesman would say only that the de­ci­sion was one for all lead­ers of Com­mon­wealth states. They will dis­cuss the is­sue when they gather for a re­treat at Wind­sor Cas­tle on Fri­day. For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son had ear­lier said the de­ci­sion was “a mat­ter for the 53”.

Mean­while, Harry was telling the young del­e­gates at the Com­mon­wealth Youth Coun­cil that “it is you who are go­ing to change the world”. He had been joined by Mrs May at a roundtable discussion, and both ex­pressed their faith in the youth of the Fam­ily of Na­tions.

The au­di­ence cheered and whooped Harry when he men­tioned his bride-to-be, who will join him to­mor­row at a Youth Fo­rum re­cep­tion.

The Prince said: “In my new role, I will work to sup­port the Queen, my fa­ther the Prince of Wales, and my brother Wil­liam, all of whom know that young peo­ple are the an­swer to the chal­lenges of to­day.

“I am also in­cred­i­bly grate­ful that the woman I am about to marry, Meghan, will be join­ing me in this work, of which she too is hugely ex­cited to take part in.”

Harry ref­er­enced his grand­mother’s speech of 1947, in which she pledged her life to the Com­mon­wealth.

He said: “On the day of her 21st birth­day, the then-Princess El­iz­a­beth gave an ex­tra­or­di­nary ra­dio ad­dress from Cape Town.

“With an eye on the fu­ture, and an al­ready un­flinch­ing sense of duty, she made a com­mit­ment. She said that whether her life be long or short, it would be ded­i­cated to the ser­vice of the peo­ple of the Com­mon­wealth.

“All of us here to­day can be grate­ful that it is a long life the Queen is still en­joy­ing. Her Majesty’s com­mit­ment has meant that the Com­mon­wealth is a thriv­ing fam­ily of na­tions, a com­mon link be­tween nearly two and a half bil­lion peo­ple, and a de­fender of democ­racy, jus­tice and peace.”

PIC­TURES: PA WIRE/REX FEA­TURES.

EYE TO THE FU­TURE: Prince Harry and Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May at­tend­ing the Com­mon­wealth Youth Fo­rum in Lon­don; Prince Charles, who will not au­to­mat­i­cally be­come head of the Com­mon­wealth, in Aus­tralia; the Queen Down Un­der in 1954.

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