Head of the Commonwealth

The Head of the Commonwealth is the "symbol of the free association of independent member nations" of the Commonwealth of Nations (commonly known as the Commonwealth), an intergovernmental organisation that currently comprises fifty-three sovereign states. There is no set term of office or term limit and the role itself involves no part in the day-to-day governance of any of the member states within the Commonwealth.

By 1949, the British Commonwealth was a group of eight countries, each having George VI as king. India, however, desired to become a republic, but not depart the Commonwealth by doing so. This was accommodated by the creation of the title Head of the Commonwealth for the King and India became a republic in 1950. Subsequently, many other nations including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore ceased to recognise the monarch of the United Kingdom as their respective head of state, but as members of the Commonwealth of Nations recognised the British monarch as Head of the Commonwealth.[1]

The title is currently held by Queen Elizabeth II, George VI's eldest daughter. Charles, Prince of Wales, was appointed her designated successor at the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Head of the
Commonwealth
Personal flag of Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II in March 2015
Incumbent
Elizabeth II

since 6 February 1952
StyleHer Majesty
Term lengthLife
Inaugural holderGeorge VI
Websitethecommonwealth.org

Title

The title was devised in the London Declaration as a result of discussions at the 1949 Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.[2] It is rendered in Latin as Consortionis Populorum Princeps.[3]

Position

The Head of the Commonwealth, currently Queen Elizabeth II, is recognised by the members of the Commonwealth of Nations as the "symbol of their free association" and serves as a leader, alongside the Commonwealth Secretary-General and Commonwealth Chair-in-Office. The Head of the Commonwealth does not, though, have any role in the governance of any Commonwealth state; Elizabeth's positions as monarch of each of the 16 Commonwealth realms are separate from that of Head of the Commonwealth.

The Head of the Commonwealth or a representative (such as Charles, Prince of Wales) attends the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), held at locations throughout the Commonwealth. This is a tradition begun by the monarch on the advice of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1973,[4] when the CHOGM was first held in Canada. During the summit, the Head of the Commonwealth has a series of private meetings with Commonwealth countries' leaders, attends a CHOGM reception and dinner, and makes a general speech. The Queen or a representative is also present at the quadrennial Commonwealth Games and on every Commonwealth Day, the second Monday in March, broadcasts a message to all member countries.

History

In 1949, King George VI was king of each of the countries that then comprised the British Commonwealth (later the Commonwealth of Nations): the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, and Ceylon. However, the Indian Cabinet desired the country become a republic, but not depart the Commonwealth as a consequence of no longer having George VI as king, as happened to Ireland. To accommodate this, the London Declaration, devised by Canadian prime minister Louis St. Laurent, stated that the King, as the symbol of the free association of the countries of the Commonwealth, was the Head of the Commonwealth.[5] When India adopted a republican constitution on 26 January 1950, George VI ceased to be its monarch (the President of India, Rajendra Prasad, becoming head of state), but it did regard him as Head of the Commonwealth.

Elizabeth II became Head of the Commonwealth on her accession in 1952, stating at the time "[t]he Commonwealth bears no resemblance to the empires of the past. It is an entirely new conception built on the highest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty, and the desire for freedom and peace."[6] The following year, a Royal Style and Titles Act was passed in each of the Commonwealth realms, adding for the first time the term Head of the Commonwealth to the monarch's titles.

In December 1960, the Queen had a personal flag created to symbolise her as Head of the Commonwealth and not associated with her role as queen of any particular country. Over time, the flag has replaced the British Royal Standard when the Queen visits Commonwealth countries of which she is not head of state (and thus does not possess a unique royal standard for that state) and on Commonwealth occasions in the United Kingdom. When the Queen visits the headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, this personal standard—not any of her royal standards—is raised.[7]

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said Elizabeth was a "behind the scenes force" in ending apartheid in South Africa.[8][9]

Succession

By 2018, with the Queen in her 90s, and the position of "Head of the Commonwealth" not technically hereditary, talks as to whether or not Prince Charles or someone else should become the third person to hold it have been going on for some time.[10] The London Declaration states that "The King [acts] as the symbol of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth", whereby both republics and kingdoms that are not Commonwealth realms can recognise the monarch as Head of the Commonwealth without accepting the person as the country's head of state. However, though each Commonwealth realm's laws on royal titles and styles make Head of the Commonwealth part of the reigning monarch's full title, and Queen Elizabeth II declared in 1958, through the Letters Patent creating her son, Prince Charles, as Prince of Wales, that Charles and his heirs and successors shall be future Heads of the Commonwealth,[11] there have been conflicting statements on how successors to the position of Head of the Commonwealth are chosen. The Commonwealth Secretariat asserts any successor will be chosen collectively by the Commonwealth heads of government.[12] Commonwealth heads of government, such as then-Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, have already referred to Prince Charles as "the future head of the Commonwealth"[13] and in 2015 then-Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key said "The title [of Head of the Commonwealth] should just go with the Crown".[14]

Sources told the BBC that the issue was to whether it should be a one-off decision to elect Prince Charles to the Headship, or whether a new process should be agreed upon to ensure that it is always the British monarch who automatically becomes head of the Commonwealth.[15][16][17] There was also speculation that a rotating ceremonial "republican" headship might be instituted.[18][19] The Daily Telegraph reported that "the post is not hereditary and many leaders want an elected head to make the organisation more democratic."[20]

In 2018, following the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Commonwealth leaders officially declared that Charles would be the next Head of the Commonwealth.[21][22][23][24]

List of Heads of the Commonwealth

Name Portrait Birth Death Start End
George VI King George VI of England, formal photo portrait, circa 1940-1946 14 December 1895 6 February 1952 28 April 1949[n 1] 6 February 1952
Elizabeth II Elizabeth II greets NASA GSFC employees, May 8, 2007 edit 21 April 1926 Living 6 February 1952[n 2] Incumbent

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Based on the London Declaration and does not match his accession as king on 11 December 1936.
  2. ^ Date of Elizabeth II's accession as Queen.

Footnotes

  1. ^ "About the commonwealth". www.gov.uk. The Foreign and Commonwealth office, UK. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  2. ^ London Declaration 1949 (PDF), Commonwealth Secretariat, retrieved 2 April 2013
  3. ^ "Biography of Elizabeth II (UK)". archontology.org.
  4. ^ Heinricks, Geoff (2001), "Trudeau and the monarchy; National Post", Canadian Monarchist News, Winter/Spring 2000–2001, Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada, retrieved 26 February 2010
  5. ^ London Declaration (PDF), Commonwealth Secretariat, 1949, retrieved 29 July 2013
  6. ^ "Head of the Commonwealth". Commonwealth Secretariat.
  7. ^ "Mailbox". Royal Insight. September 2006. p. 3. Archived from the original on 19 November 2008.
  8. ^ Geddes, John (2012). "The day she descended into the fray". Maclean's (Special Commemorative Edition: The Diamond Jubilee: Celebrating 60 Remarkable years ed.): 72.
  9. ^ MacQueen, Ken; Treble, Patricia (2012). "The Jewel in the Crown". Maclean's (Special Commemorative Edition: The Diamond Jubilee: Celebrating 60 Remarkable years ed.): 43–44.
  10. ^ Landale, James (13 February 2018). "Commonwealth in secret succession plans". BBC News – via www.bbc.com.
  11. ^ Elizabeth II, Letters Patent creating Prince Charles Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, 1958 (PDF), Queen's Printer, retrieved 3 June 2014
  12. ^ FAQs, The Commonwealth, retrieved 18 December 2013
  13. ^ Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on Commonwealth Day, Prime Minister of Canada, 10 March 2014, retrieved 4 April 2014
  14. ^ "Charles wins support to head Commonwealth". New Zealand Herald. 28 November 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  15. ^ Mount, Harry (13 February 2018). "After seven decades of slogging around the globe, doesn't Prince Charles deserve to lead the Commonwealth?". The Telegraph – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  16. ^ Mohabir, Nalini (15 February 2018). "The next head of the Commonwealth must not be a royal from Brexit Britain - Nalini Mohabir". The Guardian.
  17. ^ Palmer, Richard (13 February 2018). "Prince Charles 'might NOT be next head of Commonwealth if the Queen dies'".
  18. ^ Perring, Rebecca (13 February 2018). "'Disastrous consequences!' Anger at talks to block Charles' role as Head of Commonwealth".
  19. ^ "What Prince Charles should say to the Commonwealth - Coffee House". 18 February 2018.
  20. ^ Rayner, Gordon (27 November 2015). "State visit to Malta: Queen hints to sceptical leaders that Prince should be next Head of the Commonwealth". telegraph.co.uk.
  21. ^ "Prince Charles to be next Commonwealth head". BBC News. 20 April 2018. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  22. ^ "Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018 - Leaders' Statement". The Commonwealth. The Commonwealth of Nations. 21 April 2018. Retrieved 21 April 2018. We recognise the role of The Queen in championing the Commonwealth and its peoples. The next Head of the Commonwealth shall be His Royal Highness Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales.
  23. ^ "Charles 'to be next Commonwealth head'". BBC News. 20 April 2018. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  24. ^ "Prince Charles to succeed Queen as Commonwealth head". Sky News. 20 April 2018. Retrieved 20 April 2018.

External links

Commonwealth Day

Commonwealth Day, replacing the former Empire Day, is the annual celebration of the Commonwealth of Nations, often held on the second Monday in March. It is marked by an Anglican service in Westminster Abbey, normally attended by Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth along with the Commonwealth Secretary-General and Commonwealth High Commissioners in London. The Queen delivers an address to the Commonwealth, which is broadcast throughout the world.Commonwealth Day is a public holiday in some parts of the Commonwealth, but not presently in Britain.

Commonwealth Games Federation

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is the international organisation responsible for the direction and control of the Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth Youth Games, and is the foremost authority in matters relating to the games. The headquarters of CGF are located in London, England.

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2005

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2005 was the nineteenth Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Commonwealth of Nations. It was held in Valletta, Malta, between 25 November and 27 November 2005, and hosted by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.

Malta is the smallest country to have hosted a CHOGM, committing the country to a major undertaking. Nonetheless, the event passed smoothly, marked by the visit of both Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth, and the British aircraft carrier and Royal Navy flagship, HMS Ark Royal.

Commonwealth Secretariat

The Commonwealth Secretariat is the main intergovernmental agency and central institution of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is responsible for facilitating co-operation between members; organising meetings, including the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM); assisting and advising on policy development; and providing assistance to countries in implementing the decisions and policies of the Commonwealth.The Secretariat has observer status in the United Nations General Assembly. It is located at Marlborough House in London, the United Kingdom, a former royal residence that was given by Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth Secretary-General

The Commonwealth Secretary-General is the head of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the central body which has served the Commonwealth of Nations since its establishment in 1965, and responsible for representing the Commonwealth publicly. The Commonwealth Secretary-General should not be confused with the Head of the Commonwealth, who is currently Elizabeth II.

Commonwealth of Nations

The Commonwealth of Nations, normally known as the Commonwealth, is a unique political association of 53 member states, nearly all of them former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the Commonwealth Secretariat, which focuses on intergovernmental aspects, and the Commonwealth Foundation, which focuses on non-governmental relations between member states.The Commonwealth dates back to the first half of the 20th century with the decolonisation of the British Empire through increased self-governance of its territories. It was originally created as the British Commonwealth through the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference, and formalised by the United Kingdom through the Statute of Westminster in 1931. The current Commonwealth of Nations was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949, which modernised the community, and established the member states as "free and equal".The human symbol of this free association is the Head of the Commonwealth, currently Queen Elizabeth II, and the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting appointed Charles, Prince of Wales to be her designated successor, although the position is not technically hereditary. The Queen is the head of state of 16 member states, known as the Commonwealth realms, while 32 other members are republics and five others have different monarchs.

Member states have no legal obligations to one another. Instead, they are united by English language, history, culture and their shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. These values are enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter and promoted by the quadrennial Commonwealth Games.

The countries of the Commonwealth cover more than 29,958,050 km2 (11,566,870 sq mi), equivalent to 20% of the world's land area, and span all six inhabited continents.

Commonwealth realm

A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state in which Queen Elizabeth II is the reigning constitutional monarch and head of state. Each realm is independent from the other realms. As of 2019, there are 16 Commonwealth realms: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and the United Kingdom. All 16 Commonwealth realms are members of the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation of 53 member states. Elizabeth II is Head of the Commonwealth.

In 1952, Britain's proclamation of Elizabeth II's accession used the term realms to describe the seven sovereign states of which she was queen—the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon. Since then, new realms have been created through independence of former colonies and dependencies and some realms have become republics.

Dominion of Ghana

Ghana was a dominion within the Commonwealth of Nations between 6 March 1957 and 1 July 1960, before it became the Republic of Ghana. It was the first western African country to achieve independence.

British rule ended in 1957, when the Ghana Independence Act 1957 transformed the British Crown Colony of the Gold Coast into the independent dominion of Ghana. The British monarch remained head of state, and Ghana shared its Sovereign with the other Commonwealth realms. The monarch's constitutional roles were mostly delegated to the Governor-General of Ghana. The following governors-general held office:

Charles Noble Arden-Clarke (6 March – 24 June 1957)

William Francis Hare, 5th Earl of Listowel (24 June 1957 – 1 July 1960)A referendum was held on 27 April 1960, with 88.47% percent of the voters favouring a republic, and 11.53% against. The republic was declared and the monarchy abolished on 1 July 1960.

Elizabeth II did not reside in or visit Ghana between 1957 and 1960, but she did visit:

1961 (9–20 November): as Head of the Commonwealth

1999 (7–9 November): as Head of the CommonwealthKwame Nkrumah held office as prime minister (and head of government). Following the abolition of the monarchy, Nkrumah won a presidential election and became the first President of Ghana.

Elizabeth II

Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms.Elizabeth was born in London as the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and she was educated privately at home. Her father acceded to the throne on the abdication of his brother King Edward VIII in 1936, from which time she was the heir presumptive. She began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In 1947, she married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, with whom she has four children: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.

When her father died in February 1952, she became head of the Commonwealth and queen regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon. She has reigned as a constitutional monarch through major political changes, such as devolution in the United Kingdom, Canadian patriation, and the decolonisation of Africa. Between 1956 and 1992, the number of her realms varied as territories gained independence and realms, including South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (renamed Sri Lanka), became republics. Her many historic visits and meetings include a state visit to the Republic of Ireland and visits to or from five popes. Significant events have included her coronation in 1953 and the celebrations of her Silver, Golden, and Diamond Jubilees in 1977, 2002, and 2012 respectively. In 2017, she became the first British monarch to reach a Sapphire Jubilee. She is the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch as well as the world's longest-reigning queen regnant and female head of state, the oldest and longest-reigning current monarch and the longest-serving current head of state.

Elizabeth has occasionally faced republican sentiments and press criticism of the royal family, in particular after the breakdown of her children's marriages, her annus horribilis in 1992 and the death in 1997 of her former daughter-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales. However, support for the monarchy has consistently been and remains high, as does her personal popularity.

France and the Commonwealth of Nations

Relations between the French Republic and the Commonwealth of Nations have undergone successive periods of change since the Commonwealth's creation.

The Commonwealth's predecessor, the British Empire, was a notable rival to France's own empire. Even through eras of Entente cordiale, decolonisation, and political integration with the United Kingdom (the leading Commonwealth member) in the European Union, there has been conflict between French and Commonwealth interests, particularly in Africa. The Fashoda syndrome has shaped French attitudes to prevent Commonwealth influence in French-speaking countries, believing their interests to be mutually-exclusive.

Despite these rivalries and dual structures, at times, it has been suggested that France join the Commonwealth. In 1956, during the Suez Crisis, during which France and the United Kingdom's interests in the Middle East aligned, it was proposed by French Prime Minister Guy Mollet that France and the UK create a Franco-British Union, with common citizenship and Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. His British counterpart, Anthony Eden, instead proposed that France join the Commonwealth, with Commonwealth citizenship rights and recognising the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth. However, this was rejected by Mollet.

George VI

George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George; 14 December 1895 – 6 February 1952) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death in 1952. He was the last Emperor of India and the first Head of the Commonwealth.

Known publicly as Albert until his accession, and "Bertie" among his family and close friends, George VI was born in the reign of his great-grandmother Queen Victoria, and was named after his great-grandfather Albert, Prince Consort. As the second son of King George V, he was not expected to inherit the throne and spent his early life in the shadow of his elder brother, Edward. He attended naval college as a teenager, and served in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force during the First World War. In 1920, he was made Duke of York. He married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923 and they had two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. In the mid-1920s, he had speech therapy for a stammer, which he never fully overcame.

George's elder brother ascended the throne as Edward VIII upon the death of their father in 1936. However, later that year Edward revealed his desire to marry divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. British prime minister Stanley Baldwin advised Edward that for political and religious reasons he could not marry a divorced woman and remain king. Edward abdicated to marry Simpson, and George ascended the throne as the third monarch of the House of Windsor.

During George's reign, the break-up of the British Empire and its transition into the Commonwealth of Nations accelerated. The parliament of the Irish Free State removed direct mention of the monarch from the country's constitution on the day of his accession. The following year, a new Irish constitution changed the name of the state to Ireland and established the office of President. From 1939, the Empire and Commonwealth – except Ireland – was at war with Nazi Germany. War with Italy and Japan followed in 1940 and 1941, respectively. Though Britain and its allies were ultimately victorious in 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union rose as pre-eminent world powers and the British Empire declined. After the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, George remained king of both countries, but relinquished the title of Emperor of India in June 1948. Ireland formally declared itself a republic and left the Commonwealth in 1949, and India became a republic within the Commonwealth the following year. George adopted the new title of Head of the Commonwealth. He was beset by smoking-related health problems in the later years of his reign. He was succeeded by his elder daughter, Elizabeth II.

List of titles and honours of Elizabeth II

Elizabeth II (born 21 April 1926) has held numerous titles and honours, both during and before her time as monarch of each of her Commonwealth realms. Each is listed below; where two dates are shown, the first indicates the date of receiving the title or award (the title as Princess Elizabeth of York

being given as from her birth), and the second indicates the date of its loss or renunciation.

London Declaration

The London Declaration was a declaration issued by the 1949 Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference on the issue of India's continued membership in the Commonwealth of Nations after its transition to a republican constitution. It was made in London on 28 April 1949 and marked the birth of the modern Commonwealth. Drafted by the Indian statesman V. K. Krishna Menon, the declaration had two main provisions: It allowed the Commonwealth to admit and retain members that were not Dominions, so including both republics and indigenous monarchies, and it changed the name of the organisation from the British Commonwealth to the Commonwealth of Nations, reflecting the first change. The Declaration recognised King George VI as Head of the Commonwealth. Following his death, the Commonwealth leaders recognised Queen Elizabeth II in that capacity.The former term included the device of terminology that would reflect both the developing political independence and the right of countries in the Commonwealth to be republics and the commonality of allegiance that was the cornerstone of the Balfour Declaration of 1926 and the Statute of Westminster 1931. This proved to be a major stumbling block, until a compromise position was proposed by the Canadian Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, who planned a position of Head of the Commonwealth, separate but held by the same person as the monarch.The declaration stated vis-à-vis India:

This formula has since been deemed to be a sufficient precedent for all other countries.

The issue had been discussed at the 1948 Prime Ministers Conference, the agenda of which was dominated by the imminent decisions of two states—India and Ireland—to declare themselves republics. At the meeting, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru proposed a Ten Point Memorandum on the settlement between India and the Commonwealth. The Cabinet Committee on Commonwealth Relations recognised that Nehru's proposals could not constitute a basis for continued Commonwealth membership, and that a further conference would be required.On 16 May 1949, during the Constituent Assembly Debates for the framing of a republican constitution, Nehru declared in the house that:

At the next conference, in April 1949, Nehru, seeking above all to avoid two-tiered membership, conceded a more agreeable three-point programme, based upon common Commonwealth citizenship, a declaration of India's continued membership, and recognition of the monarch in a separate capacity than that as monarch. This met general agreement, particularly with the new South African Prime Minister Daniel François Malan, and, over the next two days, the draft was crafted into a final agreement. To avoid criticisms about dropping the word British from the name of the Commonwealth, Nehru conceded a reference to the "British Commonwealth of Nations" in the opening paragraph of the document as an historically-appropriate reference.King George VI was reticently in favour of the separation of the positions of king and Head of the Commonwealth, having met and liked Nehru, but was concerned with the practicalities. News of the agreement was hailed by all those on the opposition benches in the British House of Commons, including Winston Churchill and Clement Davies. By contrast, Jan Smuts, who had been defeated by Malan in the South African general election the previous year and was considered second only to Churchill as a Commonwealth statesman, was bitterly opposed.India became a republic in 1950 and remained in the Commonwealth. However, Ireland, which was in the same situation, having passed the Republic of Ireland Act 1948, declared itself a republic on 18 April 1949, ten days before the declaration, and therefore left the Commonwealth.

Member states of the Commonwealth of Nations

The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of 53 sovereign states. Nearly all of them are former British colonies or dependencies of those colonies.

No one government in the Commonwealth exercises power over the others, as is the case in a political union. Rather, the Commonwealth is an international organisation in which countries with diverse social, political, and economic backgrounds are regarded as equal in status, and cooperate within a framework of common values and goals, as outlined in the Singapore Declaration issued in 1971. Such common values and goals include the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multilateralism, and world peace, which are promoted through multilateral projects and meetings, such as the Commonwealth Games, held once every four years.The symbol of this free association is Queen Elizabeth II, who serves as the Head of the Commonwealth. This position, however, does not imbue her with any political or executive power over any Commonwealth member states; the position is purely symbolic, and it is the Commonwealth Secretary-General who is the chief executive of the Commonwealth.The Commonwealth was first officially formed in 1931 when the Statute of Westminster gave legal recognition to the sovereignty of dominions. Known as the "British Commonwealth", the original members were the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Irish Free State, and Newfoundland, although Australia and New Zealand did not adopt the statute until 1942 and 1947 respectively. In 1949, the London Declaration was signed and marked the birth of the modern Commonwealth and the adoption of its present name. The newest member is Rwanda, which joined on 29 November 2009. The most recent departure was the Maldives, which severed its connection with the Commonwealth on 13 October 2016.

As of April 2017, of the states that are members of the Commonwealth of Nations, three are in Europe, twelve in North America and the Caribbean, one in South America, nineteen in Africa, seven in Asia, and eleven in Oceania. There are seven former members, four of which no longer exist as independent entities (but form part of current member states). The members have a combined population of 2.4 billion, almost a third of the world population, of whom 1.21 billion live in India, and 95% live in Asia and Africa combined.Currently sixteen of the member states are Commonwealth realms, with the Head of the Commonwealth as their head of state. Five others are monarchies with their own individual monarchs (Brunei, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malaysia, Tonga) and the rest are republics. Republic of Ireland (from 1949 according to the Commonwealth; 1936 according to Irish government), Zimbabwe (2003), and Maldives (2016) are former members of the Commonwealth. South Africa, Pakistan and The Gambia left and later rejoined the Commonwealth.

Queen of Kenya

Queen of Kenya was a title held by Elizabeth II as the head of state of Kenya from 1963 to 1964. Her full style in Kenya was Queen of Kenya and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth. She was also the Sovereign of the other Commonwealth realms, including the United Kingdom. Her roles as Kenyan head of state were delegated to the Governor-General of Kenya.

The Kenya Independence Act 1963 transformed the Colony and Protectorate of Kenya into an independent sovereign state with Elizabeth II as its queen. Kenya adopted a new constitution in 1964 which abolished the monarchy and the office of governor-general, and Kenya became a republic within the Commonwealth, with the President of Kenya as head of state.

The Queen was in Kenya at Treetops Hotel on 6 February 1952, when she became Queen of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth on the death of her father, George VI. She had arrived in Nairobi on 1 February and had been staying at Sagana Lodge, near Mount Kenya. After the news of her accession, she returned immediately to the United Kingdom via Entebbe Airport. After Kenya's independence, she stopped briefly in the country on 26 March 1972 and 7 October 1991. She undertook a state visit to Kenya 10–14 November 1983, as the guest of President Daniel Arap Moi.

Queen of Sierra Leone

Elizabeth II was Queen of Sierra Leone from 1961 to 1971, when Sierra Leone was an independent constitutional monarchy. The Queen was also monarch of the other Commonwealth realms, including the United Kingdom.

Sierra Leone became an independent realm by the Sierra Leone Independence Act 1961, which transformed the British Crown Colony of Sierra Leone into an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The Queen was the ceremonial head of state, represented by the Governor-General of Sierra Leone, who resided in State House, which flew the Union Jack. Her formal title was Queen of Sierra Leone and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth. The monarchy was abolished in 1971, when Sierra Leone became a republic within the Commonwealth with the President of Sierra Leone as head of state.

The Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, visited Sierra Leone on the royal yacht Britannia from 25 November to 1 December 1961. Queen Elizabeth II Quay in Freetown is named after her.

Queen of Tanganyika

From 1961 to 1962, Tanganyika was an independent sovereign state with Elizabeth II as its queen. The Queen was formal head of state and was represented in Tanganyika by the Governor-General. Tanganyika shared the Sovereign with the other Commonwealth realms, including the United Kingdom.

The monarchy was created by the Tanganyika Independence Act 1961 which transformed the United Nations trust territory of Tanganyika into an independent sovereign constitutional monarchy. The monarchy was abolished in 1962, when Tanganyika became a republic within the Commonwealth with the President of Tanganyika as head of state. The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs wrote:

On December 9, 1961, when Tanganyika became independent, it suddenly became a monarchy with the monarch as Queen of Tanganyika. But the British monarchy was regarded as a foreign institution and the new position increased the sense of alienation from the Crown. It is made clear, however, that the proposal to become a republic does not imply any disrespect towards the person of the Queen, whose position as Head of the Commonwealth is readily acknowledged ... The chief, as the leader of the tribe, still holds a position of great importance in most areas ... by and large the chiefs have retained the affection and loyalty of their people and since it is a monarchical system, it might be thought that the idea of monarchy was acceptable to the people and that in some areas it was strongly entrenched. There is, however, a difference between the monarchical idea of chieftainship and that of an alien monarch who is a European and who lives thousands of miles away and is never seen. The days have gone when the English sovereign can be expected to command the personal loyalty of African subjects in the same way as people of British origin.

Tanganyika merged with Zanzibar in 1964 after the Zanzibar Revolution to form Tanzania. The Queen visited Tanzania on 19–22 July 1979, visiting Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, and Kilimanjaro.

Republics in the Commonwealth of Nations

The republics in the Commonwealth of Nations are the sovereign states in the Commonwealth of Nations with a republican form of government. As of May 2017, 31 out of the 53 member states were republics. Elizabeth II, who is the monarch in the Commonwealth realms, is still the titular Head of the Commonwealth in a personal capacity, but this role does not carry with it any power; instead, it is a symbol of the free association of Commonwealth members.Except for the former Portuguese possession of Mozambique and the former Belgian trust territory of Rwanda, they are all former British (or partly British) colonies or self-governing colonies that have evolved into republics. Most of them achieved independence while keeping the British monarch as their own individual head of state (in a form of personal union) and later became republics within the Commonwealth by abolishing the monarchy. In some instances, the countries became republics after achieving independence from other former British colonies (as Bangladesh did from Pakistan in 1971).

Style of the British sovereign

The precise style of British sovereigns has varied over the years. The present style is officially proclaimed in two languages:

in English: Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faithin Latin: Elizabeth II, Dei Gratia Britanniarum Regnorumque Suorum Ceterorum Regina, Consortionis Populorum Princeps, Fidei Defensor

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