The Commonwealth consists of 30% of the world’s population. It is made up of 53 member countries who are overseen by someone who acts as head of the body. Unlike inheriting the Monarchy and becoming head of state of 16 countries when his mother dies, it isn’t a guarantee that the Prince Charles will serve as head of the Commonwealth.
It has been revealed this week that The Queen has been working behind closed doors to ensure her son will succeed her in this position. In order for the Prince of Wales to become head of the Commonwealth, current leaders of those countries would need to provide their support to the first in line against any emerging candidates who would seek to challenge his right to serve.
In February, 2013, the Queen sent her most trusted senior adviser, Sir Christopher Geidt to Australia to meet with the then Republican Prime Minister, Julia Gillard to plead Her Majesty’s case. During the meeting that lasted a half hour, gillard was quite open to the idea, as she was the then Chair of the Commonwealth.
A month later while speaking to the Australian Parliament, she paid tribute to the “distinguished” service of the Queen as head of the Commonwealth, saying: “The institution of the head of the Commonwealth, standing as it does above individual governments, has been an asset of the Commonwealth since its foundation, and we need not be reticent about its future.
“For Australia’s part, I am sure the Queen’s successor as monarch will one day serve as head of the Commonwealth with the same distinction as her Majesty has done.”
Though Ms. Gillard found it ‘wise’ to support the Queen in her tribute, she also more recently drew attention to what some might consider a conflict of interest on the part of Sir Geidt and what he’s brought to the role of head of the Commonwealth as stated by the UK government in 2014 when he received two knighthoods.
Of this, Ms. Gillard said: “He has brought to this key role a new approach to constitutional matters, including at the time of the formation of the coalition government, the preparation for the transition to a change of reign and relations with the Commonwealth.”
Regarding Sir Geidt’s visit to Australia, Buckingham Palace explained there was nothing odd about the chair of the Commonwealth meeting with a private secretary. Sir Geidt merely wished to inform Ms. Gillard that the Prince of Wales would be attending in her stead the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit.
Not everyone believes the future of the Commonwealth should be decided in private. The director of the Institute of Commonwealth studies, Professor Philip Murphy finds Sir Geidt’s meeting with Ms. Gillard disconcerting.
He told the BBC: “There needs to be a proper and open debate about the future of the headship and about whether, in the 21st century, a British hereditary monarch would be a suitable symbol for the Commonwealth.”
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