The King is Head of the Commonwealth: a voluntary association of 56 countries which work together towards shared goals in democracy and development. The Commonwealth is home to more than two billion citizens of numerous faiths and ethnicities, over sixty-percent of whom are under the age of 30.
In addition to the United Kingdom, The King is Head of State of fourteen 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 representatives known as Governors-General, Governors or Lieutenant-Governors.
These fourteen Realms are:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Solomon Islands
In 2018, at the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, held at Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II spoke of the great convening power of the organisation, and stated her wish that the then Prince of Wales would become Head of the Commonwealth on his Accession.
It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations, and will decide one day that 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.
Commonwealth leaders confirmed their support for Her Majesty’s wishes.
In 2023, during his first Commonwealth Day Service as King, His Majesty spoke of the Royal Family's commitment to the Commonwealth 'family' in his message, which he read at Westminster Abbey in front of a congregation of 2,000 who had come together to celebrate the achievements of the Commonwealth and its citizens.
The Commonwealth has been a constant in my own life, and yet its diversity continues to amaze and inspire me. Its near-boundless potential as a force for good in the world demands our highest ambition; its sheer scale challenges us to unite and be bold.
Visits as Prince of Wales
The King has been a proud supporter of the Commonwealth and its people for more than four decades, helping to maintain the Royal Family's strong connection to member countries through official visits, military patronages and charitable activities.
During a visit to The University of the West Indies in Trinidad in 2000, His Majesty spoke of unique power of the Commonwealth as an organisation:
I have long had an instinctive sense of the value of the Commonwealth. It encourages and celebrates cultural diversity and makes no attempt to homogenise.
His Majesty has visited 48 of the 56 Commonwealth countries to date, many of them on several occasions. Her Majesty The Queen Consort has accompanied The Prince on the majority of these visits since their marriage in 2005.
Commonwealth work as Prince of Wales
For over 40 years His Majesty has sought to identify and address areas of charitable need across the Commonwealth. Many of The Prince's areas of focus, including the environment, youth opportunity and enterprise, are of immediate relevance to the Commonwealth. Some of His Majesty’s key charities have undertaken activities in Commonwealth countries for many years, often in collaboration with local organizations.
In 2022, The Prince’s Trust launched the “Youth Voice Plan”: a Commonwealth Games– Prince’s Trust partnership which will enable young people to contribute to the legacy of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games through an ongoing partnership between The Prince’s Trust Group and the Commonwealth Sport Movement.
The Prince's Trust International works to combat the issue of youth unemployment and focuses on supporting young people across the Commonwealth in countries including Uganda, Trinidad and Tobago and India.
The Prince's Charities Canada provides entrepreneurship training for veterans, employment opportunities for young people furthest from the labour market and support for the revitalization of Indigenous languages.
The Prince's Trust Australia also works with veterans and young people, as well as championing sustainability within the built environment.
The Prince’s Youth Business International is active in twenty Commonwealth countries, helping young people to start, grow and sustain businesses. The organisation has already helped to start nearly 90,000 youth-led businesses, as well as creating employment opportunities for hundreds of thousands of others.
In 2022, The King attended the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II. During the opening ceremony, he spoke of the Royal Family’s affection for its ‘Commonwealth Family’, saying:
Throughout her reign, The Queen has placed … the greatest importance on the common friendship, humanity and values that all of us share in this room, not despite but because of the diversity the Commonwealth represents … I treasure the friendships we have built over these past seventy years, and look forward to their deepening in the years ahead.