Commonwealth ‘begins secret talks’ on who will succeed Queen after her death

The Commonwealth has begun secret deliberations to decide who will succeed the Queen as its head, it has been reported.

Although Prince Charles will become King on the death of his mother, the head of the Commonwealth is not a hereditary position.

A “high-level group” of Commonwealth officials are set to meet in London. The agenda for the all-day summit, seen by the BBC, says there will be a discussion of “wider governance considerations”, which insiders say is code for the succession.

A senior source said: “I imagine the question of the succession, however distasteful it may naturally be, will come up.”

The Queen turns 92 in April. She was proclaimed head of the Commonwealth at her coronation when she became head of state in seven of its eight members. Today it has 53 members, mostly former constituents of the British Empire.

It is not a hereditary position that will pass automatically to the Prince of Wales, who will be head of state in only 15 of the 53 member nations that now make up the Commonwealth.

Any decision about the future would have to be made by the Commonwealth heads of government at the time of the Queen’s death, but there is no formal process for choosing her successor.

While many Commonwealth figures presume there will be no realistic alternative to Charles, there has in the past been talk of electing a ceremonial leader to improve the organisation’s democratic credentials.

According to documents seen by the BBC, the high level group will not just confine itself to bureaucratic changes.

The agenda for the meeting is reported to say: “Discussions will take into consideration the issues raised in the first session and also the wider governance considerations of the Commonwealth.”

Concerns Prince Charles ‘does not command same respect’ as Queen

Although Prince Charles remains the most likely person to succeed his mother, some states have discussed electing a president instead.

A 2009 diplomatic cable sent to Washington –  and later released by Wikileaks – revealed some concerns about his suitability to lead the grouping.

Amitav Banerji, Commonwealth secretariat director of political affairs, reportedly told a US embassy political officer in London that the Prince “does not command the same respect” as the Queen.

Prince Charles

Prince Charles visits Sri Lanka in 2013 to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting

Credit:
Chris Jackson /Getty

The group could decide to endorse Prince Charles as a one-off decision or agree a new constitution that would automatically place the British head of state as Commonwealth head, the BBC reported.

Prince Charles represented his mother at the last meeting in Sri Lanka in 2013.

Who are the high-level Commonwealth officials?

The high-level group of Commonwealth officials is said to consist of:

  • Chairman Anote Tong, former president of Kiribati
  • Lord Howell, former British energy secretary
  • Louise Frechette, former United Nations deputy secretary general
  • Robert Hill, former Australian defence minister
  • Dame Billie Miller, former deputy prime minister of Barbados
  • Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Nigerian minister of finance
  • George Vella, former deputy prime minister of Malta

The group is expected to report its discussions to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April.

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