Westminster Abbey will play host to The Royal Family on Monday 9th March as Her Majesty The Queen and Prince Philip will attend the annual Commonwealth Observance. The Queen and Prince Philip will be joined by The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall as well as The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The Observance is organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society and is the biggest multi-faith celebration in the United Kingdom taking the form of an hour long service. The service will feature a mixture of testimonies, readings, hymns and musical performances and will be attended by politicians, High Commissioners and Commonwealth dignitaries. There will also be over 1000 schoolchildren in attendance.
As well as testimonies and hymns, South African a cappella group The Soil will also perform at the service whilst Indian poet, Sharanya Manivannan, will read a new poem commissioned for Commonwealth Day. Commonwealth Day is marked annually on the second Monday in March and is a celebration of the Commonwealth’s rich diversity as well as an opportunity to promote understanding on global issues, international cooperation and the work of Commonwealth civil society organisations. Commonwealth Day celebrations take place across the world.
During the Commonwealth Observance, The Queen’s Commonwealth Day Message will be broadcast throughout the Abbey the theme of which this year is ‘A Young Commonwealth’. The theme seems to be quite apt as their will be 1000 children in attendance at the Observance, all of whom have been involved in the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition. The competition is the worlds oldest schools international English language writing competition and promotes the values of the modern commonwealth as well as celebrating and nurturing the creative talents of young people and also provides a platform for students to share ideas with their peers in 53 Commonwealth nations.
At the conclusion of the service and their departure from the Abbey, The Queen, Duchess of Cornwall and Duchess of Cambridge will be presented with posies of flowers from children after which The Royal Family will walk by the Commonwealth Flags also held by the children in attendance.
In their second engagement of the day, The Queen and Prince Philip will be guests of the Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, at the annual reception which traditionally takes place on Commonwealth Day. The reception will be held at Marlborough House, the home of the Commonwealth Secretariat and will see speeches from 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, Queens Young Leader and charity worker for Ebola orphans PJ Cole as well as the first female Speaker of the Parliament of Bangladesh, Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury MP.
The Commonwealth was established in 1949 with just 8 members and in 2015 comprises 53 members with a combine population of 2.2 billion. The association of governments and peoples is a voluntary one and is built around shared language, institutions, challenges, aspirations and values. Her Majesty The Queen is head of the Commonwealth.
Prior to the Observance Service at Westminster Abbey a commemoration ceremony will be held at Memorial Gates, Constitution Hill. The ceremony will focus partially on the engagement in 1915 at Neuve Chapelle and the 70th anniversary of VJ Day. Musical input will be provided by the Coldstream Guards Band whilst the Lord Bishop of London will give an address.