Queen to miss Commonwealth meeting


Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma: "The leaders will all completely understand"

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For the first time since 1973 the Queen will not be attending the Commonwealth heads of government meeting this year, Buckingham Palace has said.

She will be represented by the Prince of Wales at the summit in Sri Lanka in November.

Buckingham Palace said it was reviewing the amount of long-haul travel the Queen undertook.

The Queen, 87, is the head of the Commonwealth and every two years leaders meet to discuss global issues.

The Queen was first present at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting (Chogm) in Ottawa, Canada, in 1973 - missing the first one in 1971 - and has been at every summit since. The last one, in 2011, was held in Perth, Australia.


A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "I can confirm the Queen will be represented by the Prince of Wales.

"The reason is that we are reviewing the amount of long-haul travel that is taken by the Queen."

This is a significant decision for the Queen and for her eldest son and heir.

The 87-year-old monarch won't have arrived at it lightly - she hasn't missed a heads of government meeting since 1973 and she regards the Commonwealth as an important dimension of her reign.

It is an acknowledgement of her advancing age and not, her officials insist, in order to avoid the political question about whether or not Sri Lanka should be the host in the first place.

The focus of campaigners, who are critical of Colombo's human rights record, will now be the Prince of Wales.

Behind the scenes, the ground has been prepared for him to become the organisation's next head - a position he's not automatically entitled to.

His attendance, in November, in place of his mother, will be another very visible sign of his preparation for kingship.

BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said the Queen would not have taken the decision lightly and it was both surprising and significant.

He said it was a significant moment for the Prince of Wales and it was also a symbolic move.

"It is about transition, about preparing this country for an elderly head of state who will be able to do less and less," he said.

"There is no intention of abdication. It will just not happen during her reign. It is the palace addressing the practicalities of her advancing age - you will see less of her and more of him."

It is expected that Prince Charles will be joined by the Duchess of Cornwall at the summit in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, he added.

By stepping in for the Queen, Prince Charles will be performing one of his most significant duties to date as a future King.

He has never before attended in place of the monarch at the two-yearly gathering of Commonwealth leaders. In 2007, both the Prince and the Queen attended Chogm in Uganda.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the Queen's decision was "entirely understandable" and did not reflect any decrease in her commitment to the Commonwealth.

He said: "I think we should all pay tribute to the incredible work that Her Majesty has done over six decades in support of the Commonwealth. I know that she is as passionate about the Commonwealth today as she has ever been."

Politically tricky

The Queen was forced to cancel her appearance in March at the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey, the first time the monarch had missed the occasion in 20 years.

Key summits the Queen has attended

Queen Elizabeth during the opening ceremony of the 2002 Chogm in Queensland, Australia.
  • Gleneagles 1977: Sporting contacts with South Africa "discouraged" but not banned in protest against Apartheid
  • Lusaka 1979: Commonwealth united by aim to "to rid the world of the evils of racism". Apartheid further condemned as an "affront to humanity"
  • Langkawi 1989: Declaration warned of "permanent and irreversible damage" caused by greenhouse gases, calling for more "sustainable" environmental policies in response to the risk
  • Harare 1991: Human rights and democracy were central to the declaration, issued at Chogm, chaired by Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in 2002 for failing to adhere to the principles of the declaration signed on its soil
  • Perth 2011: The principle that male heirs should succeed to the British throne ahead of elder female siblings, or male primogeniture, was abandoned

It was one of a number of engagements she cancelled after being admitted to hospital suffering from the symptoms of gastroenteritis.

The Queen is the Commonwealth's symbolic head and has no formal powers over the 54 countries and two billion citizens which make up the voluntary association.

Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma said the "family of nations completely understands and respects" the Queen's decision.

"The presence of the Prince of Wales at our Commonwealth gathering will carry forward Her Majesty's outstanding record of enduring commitment and diligent service as head of the Commonwealth," he said.

Concerns have been raised about the choice of Sri Lanka as the host nation for the 2013 summit.

Campaigners including Amnesty International are calling for the Chogm meeting not to take place there before an investigation is carried out into human rights abuses in the final six months of the 26-year Sri Lankan civil war.

Britain is facing pressure to lead a boycott of the meeting, with Canada's government indicating it will not attend unless specific criteria are met.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said he hoped Mr Cameron would "think again" about his decision to attend the summit "given the very serious and continuing allegations in relation to human rights".

He told Channel 4 News: "I think he should be using the coming months between now and November to be very clear to the Sri Lankans that unless we see substantive change then he, along with the Canadian and other governments, I hope, will give very serious consideration to boycotting this summit."

Buckingham Palace said the Queen's decision was not related to the political situation.

"The key point here is that the Queen will be represented, although she is not there in person, by the Prince of Wales," a spokesman said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Any other job, any other role, she would have retired long ago. But she believes she has a "devine right" to rule - and thus this misbelief condemns her to decades of very visaible decline and misery.
    Queenie, wake up and retire you foolish old person!

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Just wondering what revelations are coming out about the beeb today, HYS's open on the Eu and the Queen, must be big.

    What a sensible idea for her not to attend this conference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    It's hardly surprising that the Queen is starting to slow down a bit - she's 87! There aren't many women of her age who do the amount of work she does. She has been an absolute credit to the UK and the Commonwealth.

    It's high time Prince Charles took a more prominent role, the Queen can't last forever, and maybe some of the younger members of the Royal family could do a bit more too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    In the nicest possible way, roll on the time to change the head of state so that we can have a proper debate about whether an inherited post (and the wealth associated with it) has any place in the modern world. I wouldn't wish anyone's mother / grandmother to pass away, but when that time comes we must be ready to have the debate loud and clear

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I'm a republican. But I love the monarchy. My head says republic, my heart says monarchy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Long may her Majesty enjoy good health and a happy retirement. I think most of us have no clue the amount of work she does for this country, especially at 87. She's incredible. She's long overdue for a rest and needs to start taking a more back seat role as Charles prepares to take over the role as future Monarch. He make a fine King but I think will be more active/outspoken, I have no doubt.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I concur Bill Walker & Willo77. Well said, both.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    6. 'Think' Tank.You malign me. I have never suggested we have Robert Mugabe as head of state. Explain what is bigoted about wanting an elected head of state who represents all of the people not just some of them. Where have I listed any 'required qualifications'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    What a thoroughly mean spirited, unpleasant and indeed racist remark from Manipulated Nation, about a woman who has done more for this country than most.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Why is it that "monarchists" always liken being anti-monarchy to being anti-British and believe that a properly elected president would be some sort of fascist? I also like the way that they assume that because our current monarch is benign that all future ones will too. The difference is you can vote out a bad president, you can't vote out a bad king!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    She's 87, travelling at all can be hard at that age. And being on your feet and talking to people all day is exhausting. I often do careers fairs for work and while it always seems like an easy day away from the computer representing the company and talking all day is far harder than sitting, writing code.

    She is a great ambassador for this country, lay off the petty jealousy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    @1 Manipulated Nation
    The fact that a large number of nations with widely different ethnic origins, religions, and national outlooks welcome Her Majesty as their head, when they could remove her with a simple decision of their own parliament, rather outvotes your churlish view don't you think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Bless her, she needs to take it easy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Thank you Queen!!!! You respect of tamils in uk!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Leave her be - do you know many 87 year olds who work 365 days a year, who don't get paid a salary (as such - albeit she has a very comfortable life). My grandmother passed 18 months ago, and for the 5 years or so previous she was pretty much housebound and latterly bedridden. The Queen does a Sterling job. Give her credit for continuing as long as she has.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Alas, this will bring the Trolls and WUMs out again. as has been trotted out time an time again, if you don't like it Dover is in Kent - I hear France is a Republic. I suggest you disappear off there. Please leave your British Passport with Pasport Control as you leave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    @1 You always suggest we have Robert Mugabe as our head of state. Based on your bigoted views of the required qualifications, one can only presume you think he would be perfect?


  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Just abolish it and sell her properties to developers to make luxury flats.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Oh dear, what a shame. Still, at least Charlie gets to go on a jolly instead.

    Wish I could get tax payer funded overseas trips shaking hands, walking down a red carpet and generally chatting with people...


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