Prince William attended a Welcome to the UK reception at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London yesterday, as part of the opening events for the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit week.
The reception welcomed almost 2,000 delegates from Commonwealth Businesses as well as People’s, Women’s and Youth Forums, many of whom are visiting the UK for the first time.
The Duke of Cambridge opened the evening with a speech in which he paid tribute to the attendees and spoke about the importance of the Commonwealth, saying: “It is very easy at the start of a week like this, when so many Heads of Government are gathering, to believe that the summit and its communiqués and statements are all that the Commonwealth is about. The Commonwealth, I am pleased to say, is a lot more than that.”
“When the question is asked, as it sometimes is: what makes the Commonwealth unique? I answer with great confidence that it is you who make the Commonwealth unique.
“The Commonwealth has rightly been described as ‘the mother of all networks’. There is no other organisation on earth that marries politics with the civil society and the networks that the Forums represent.
“And you are just the tip of the iceberg: there is a huge number of organisations representing every profession and walk of life who network across the Commonwealth – scientists, archivists, activists, medics, museums, universities, commerce – I could go on. These bodies, and your work in these Forums, bring a world that needs more communication, not less, together. What this gathering represents is a connection based on empathy, compassion and a shared desire to make our world a better place.
“There is no other network on earth that even comes close to this – we must make the most of it, cherish it, and protect it for the generations to come, who will build on it.”
Prince William went on to challenge the delegates to “push the boundaries of what the Commonwealth is capable of” and “use your combined intellect and creativity to challenge the status quo” before concluding with some more personal sentiments.
“My purpose here on stage tonight is to welcome you to the United Kingdom, and I am delighted to do so. If I may, though my duty is to formally welcome you on behalf of the whole country, I wanted to extend a personal note of welcome too. During the course of this week, across all the different events, you will be seeing a lot of the Royal Family.
“For us in the Royal Family, supporting The Queen who has dedicated her life loyally and without fail to the Commonwealth is an enormous honour.
“We hope, above all, that you prosper from your time together this week and that your sense of family deepens. It is a great pleasure for me and for all of the family to share your week with you.
“So, welcome. We have five extraordinary days before us, with over five thousand people here in London from every corner of our Commonwealth family.”
Following his opening remarks the prince joined Prime Theresa May in a tour of the exhibition stands collated by the Department for International Trade and the GREAT campaign, demonstrating creativity, technology and innovation from across the UK as well as examples of UK / Commonwealth partnerships, including motorcycle brand Royal Enfield and a Space Descent Virtual Reality experience with Tim Peake, in conjunction with the Science Museum.