Queen hopes son Charles will be next Commonwealth head

She tells heads of state at meeting she hopes Prince will carry on important work of reinvigorating the network

Queen Elizabeth II said yesterday she hoped her son Prince Charles would carry on the important work of reinvigorating the Commonwealth, as she opened the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.

The Queen received long and loud applause from the leaders of 53 Commonwealth countries as they demonstrated their gratitude for her service to the network that she has headed since 1952.

Succession to her role in the Commonwealth, which is not hereditary, is said to be one of the topics for discussion at this year's biennial gathering as it is expected to be the last the Queen will attend.

At 92, she has cut down on long-haul travel.

Speaking before the Queen, Prince Charles, 69, had described the Commonwealth as a fundamental feature of his life for as long as he could remember, starting with his first visit to Malta when he was five years old.

The Prince of Wales added that he had been fortunate over the years to meet and talk with "so many giants of the Commonwealth" including Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, the father of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Britain is hosting the summit for the fourth time, and the famed April showers gave London a miss as the leaders, including Mr Lee, arrived at Buckingham Palace.

A guard of honour, regimental band and flag bearers welcomed them as they streamed into the ballroom in their formal suits and colourful national costumes.

The Queen, dressed in a turquoise ensemble, arrived at 10.10am and, in her welcome address, said: "Having on so many occasions been welcomed to the opening ceremonies around the Commonwealth, it is a pleasure this time to welcome you to my own home."

It was in Buckingham Palace that the Commonwealth was formed in 1949 with just eight nations.

Today, the network of nations with past links to the British Empire - ranging from giant India to the small Pacific nation of Nauru - represents 2.4 billion people.

The Queen said the advantages of the network were plain to see, with an increasing emphasis on trade between Commonwealth countries and joint initiatives bringing about change on a global scale.

Expressing her preference for the first time, she said it was her sincere wish it would one day decide to have Prince Charles, her oldest child, "carry on the important work started by my father in 1949".

She also said she was mindful the Commonwealth draws its mandate from the countries and its leaders.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, the meeting's host, thanked the Queen and the royal family for being the Commonwealth's most steadfast and fervent champions and for nurturing the organisation.

She urged the leaders to work together to tackle some of the 21st century's biggest issues, such as climate change and threats to the rule-based world order and trade.

Mr Lee was set to speak on some of these issues at yesterday afternoon's executive sessions when leaders and officials met.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2018, with the headline 'Queen hopes son Charles will be next Commonwealth head'. Print Edition | Subscribe