The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 countries which work together towards shared goals in democracy and development. The Commonwealth is home to two billion citizens of numerous faiths and ethnicities, over sixty-percent of whom are under the age of 30.
Commonwealth member countries span multiple continents and oceans from Africa (19 countries) to Asia (7 countries), the Americas and the Caribbean (13 countries), Europe (3 countries) and the South Pacific (11 countries).
Her Majesty The Queen is Head of the Commonwealth. The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, like all Members of the Royal Family, maintain especially close links with the countries of the Commonwealth.
In addition to the United Kingdom, The Queen is Head of State of fifteen other countries. In these countries, which are often referred to as ‘Realms’, the constitutional functions of the Crown are exercised on the advice of local ministers by Vice-Regal representatives known variously as Governors-General, Governors and Lieutenant-Governors.
These fifteen Realms are:
1.Antigua and Barbuda
10.Papua New Guinea
11.Saint Kitts and Nevis
13.Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
The Prince of Wales and The Commonwealth
The Prince of Wales has been a proud supporter of the Commonwealth for more than four decades and helps to maintain the Royal Family's strong connection to member countries through official visits, military links and charitable activities.
His Royal Highness has visited 44 of 53 Commonwealth countries to date, many of them on several occasions. Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall has accompanied The Prince on the majority of Commonwealth visits since their marriage in 2005.
For 40 years The Prince of Wales has sought to identify and address areas of charitable need. Many of the prominent issues The Prince's charitable endeavours have focussed upon, including the environment, youth opportunity and enterprise, are of immediate relevance to the Commonwealth. Several of His Royal Highness's charities have therefore undertaken activities in Commonwealth countries for many years, often in collaboration with local organizations. Background briefing material for Commonwealth media can be accessed here.
The Prince of Wales, accompanied by The Duchess of Cornwall, represented Her Majesty The Queen at the opening of the XXI Commonwealth Games in April 2018. Their Royal Highnesses visited Brisbane and the Gold Coast together; before His Royal Highness continued his visit to Queensland and the Northern Territory.
The visit focused on the themes of community, sustainability and disaster recovery and resilience, and highlighted The Prince's connections to the Australian Armed Forces.
The Prince of Wales visited Vanuatu on 7th April 2018 to learn more about the reconstruction which had taken place following the devastating impact of Cyclone Pam. His Royal Highness's visit highlighted the challenges faced by Island States vulnerable to the growing threat of climate change.
During the visit, The Prince received a chief title - Mal Menaringmanu - in a traditional ceremony.
Antigua and Barbuda, 2017
In November, 2017 The Prince of Wales visited Antigua and Barbuda to meet members of the local communities and see how they were recovering from the widespread devastation in the region caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
On 18th September 2017, Hurricane Maria, the strongest recorded hurricane to hit the island of Dominica, caused extensive damage across the entire island. Many of the communities affected were still recovering from the damage caused by Tropical Storm Erika two years ago. During his visit to Dominica The Prince attended a Cabinet Meeting with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and President Charles Savarin, visited Pichelin, Bellevue Chopin and Pointe Michel to meet residents before attending a reception at the Roseau Botanic Gardens.
In November 2017 The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited India. In addition to a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Their Royal Highnesses will undertake various engagements to celebrate the UK/India Year of Culture.
Their Royal Highnesses' visit marked 60 years of diplomatic ties between the UK and Malaysia. During the five-day visit The Prince and The Duchess visited Kuala Lumpur, Sarawak, Perak and Penang. In Sarawak His Royal Highness visited Semenggoh Wildlife Centre where he saw how the orangutans were being cared for by the centre's staff.
Their Royal Highnesses ended their visit to Malaysia in Georgetown, Penang, originally named Prince of Wales Island. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall experienced four religions in one day today on what is colloquially known as the Street of Harmony. Their Royal Highnesses visited places of worship belonging to the Christian, Muslim, Chinese and Hindu communities in the Penang capital George Town as they celebrated the Malaysian city's diverse residents.
Their Royal Highnesses visited to congratulate His Majesty The Sultan on his Golden Jubilee. The Prince and The Duchess also attended an event with the Royal Gurkha Rifles.
Their Royal Highnesses were welcomed by President Halimah Yacob at a ceremony at the Istana the official residence and office of the President of Singapore.
The Prince of Wales attended an event to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the George Cross being awarded to Malta.
The Prince of Wales delivered the keynote speech at the Our Ocean conference. Later that day The Prince of Wales released a turtle made ill by plastic back into the sea.
In July 2017 The Prince and The Duchess visited Nunavut, Ontario and the Capital Region to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation. Their Royal Highnesses' visited highlighted four themes of Canada150: diversity and inclusion, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, young people and the environment.
From 26th-28th November 2015, The Prince of Wales, accompanied by The Duchess of Cornwall, attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in support of The Queen.
New Zealand and Australia, 2015
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall toured New Zealand and Australia in November, visiting 12 cities and towns; 7 regions of New Zealand and 3 Australian states and 1 territory in 12 days.
This year's tour focused on the themes of community, culture and conservation.
The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited Canada in May 2014 and took part in a service to mark the centenary of World War One and the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference in Prince Edward Island that led to the Confederation of Canada.
India and Sri Lanka, 2013
In November 2013, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall undertook a nine day visit to India before moving onto Sri Lanka where The Prince represented Her Majesty The Queen at the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM). The Prince of Wales has accompanied The Queen to CHOGM on two occasions, in Edinburgh, Scotland and Kampala, Uganda.
In a speech made at the opening ceremony of CHOGM in Sri Lanka, The Prince of Wales spoke of his trust that the Commonwealth could bring a "touch of healing" to the world's troubles. A sentiment that holds true today.
You can read HRH’s speech to CHOGM, in full, here.
Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand, 2012
In November 2012, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, marked The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with a visit to Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.
In April 2018, the UK hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) where leaders from all the member countries gathered in London and Windsor.
The summit’s theme was: ‘Towards a common future’ and focused on building on the strengths of the Commonwealth to ensure this unique organisation is responsive to global challenges and delivers a more prosperous, secure, sustainable and fair future for all its citizens, particularly its young people.
Members of the Royal family hosted and attended a number of events over the week of the CHOGM. Find out more about events each day here.
The Formal Opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting took place at Buckingham Palace on 19th April and both The Queen and The Prince of Wales gave speeches.
Her Majesty said: “It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations, and will decide that one day The Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949.
“By continuing to treasure and reinvigorate our associations and activities, I believe we will secure a safer, more prosperous and sustainable world for those who follow us: a world where the Commonwealth's generosity of spirit can bring its gentle touch of healing and hope to all.”
The Prince of Wales spoke of the importance of the Commonwealth to him personally, telling the gathered leaders: “I consider myself fortunate over the years to have been able to meet and talk with so many of the giants of the Commonwealth – Sir Robert Menzies; Kwame Nkrumah; Sir Keith Holyoake; Jomo Kenyatta; Pierre Trudeau; Kenneth Kaunda; Julius Nyerere; Lee Kuan Yew and many more.
“On the foundations they laid, the modern Commonwealth has a vital role to play in building bridges between our countries, fairer societies within them and a more secure world around them.”
On the final day of CHOGM, it was announced that The Prince of Wales will succeed The Queen to become the next Head of the Commonwealth. Prime Minister Theresa May announced the decision from the 53 Commonwealth Heads of Government after private deliberations at Windsor Castle.
The Prince said of the decision: "I am deeply touched and honoured by the decision of Commonwealth Heads of State and Government that I should succeed The Queen, in due course, as Head of the Commonwealth."
“Meanwhile, I will continue to support Her Majesty in every possible way, in the service of our unique family of nations."