This morning The Queen began the official countdown to the 2018 Commonwealth Games when she launched the baton relay at Buckingham Palace, with the Duke of Edinburgh at her side.
The relay will see the baton travel more than 200,000 miles through 71 countries over the next 388 days before reaching the Gold Coast in Australia, where the 2018 games will be held.
After receiving the baton at the palace, where it was delivered by Australian Paralympian Kurt Fearnley, The Queen placed a message inside before handing it to two-time Olympic champion cyclist Anna Meares. Meares was joined by her former rival, Victoria Pendleton of Team GB.
The baton ceremony was witnessed by school children from all of the countries represented at the games and sent off with a performance by Australian singer Cody Simpson.
The Queen and Prince Philip are due to mark Commonwealth Day with a service at Westminster Abbey later today where they will be joined by The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex.
The theme this year will be ‘a peace-building commonwealth’ and in a message to the more than 2.4 billion Commonwealth citizens in today’s Order of Service The Queen wrote: ‘The cornerstones on which peace is founded are, quite simply, respect and understanding for one another. Working together, we build peace by defending the dignity of every individual and community.
‘As members of the Commonwealth family, we can find much to be thankful for in the inheritances we have received from those who came before us. Through consensus and co-operation, great things have been achieved.’
Baroness Scotland, the Commonwealth Secretary-General also released a Commonwealth Day message that was today read at flag ceremonies across the country. In her message she stressed that: ‘By linking governments and institutions – both public and private – and bringing together in a spirit of goodwill people of all ages and from all walks of life, Commonwealth gatherings and networks lay foundations of respect and understanding that enable lasting peace to be built.’