The King and Commonwealth Parliaments
Following the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III, this blog article looks at his relationship with the Commonwealth and his many visits to Commonwealth Parliaments over the years.
The King and the Commonwealth
His Majesty King Charles III is the Head of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 56 independent countries. As Head of the Commonwealth, The King reinforces the links by which the Commonwealth joins people together from around the world.
The King is also the Sovereign Head of 15 Commonwealth realms - Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; The Bahamas; Belize; Canada; Grenada; Jamaica; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; St Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; St Vincent and the Grenadines; the Solomon Islands; Tuvalu; and the United Kingdom. King Charles also enjoys a close relationship with the Crown Dependencies – Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man – and the UK Overseas Territories.
For many years, Commonwealth Day has been celebrated throughout the Commonwealth on the second Monday in March. The King and Queen Consort have attended the annual Commonwealth Day celebrations in London each year including the multi-faith service held in Westminster Abbey and the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s reception.
Visits to Commonwealth Parliaments
One of the ways of strengthening the connections with the Commonwealth is through regular visits. As The Prince of Wales, King Charles travelled abroad every year of his adult life and has visited almost every corner of the Commonwealth.
These visits provided The King with the opportunity to familiarise himself with the issues of importance to each Commonwealth jurisdiction and to meet many officials.
The Queen Consort has also visited a number of Commonwealth countries and as Vice-Patron of the Royal Commonwealth Society, she has taken a great interest in literacy in the Commonwealth.
As the Patron of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the late Queen Elizabeth II was a supporter of the work of Commonwealth Parliaments and visited almost every Parliament in the Commonwealth during her long reign. Founded in 1911, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has a membership of almost 180 Commonwealth Parliaments at national, state, provincial and territorial level with around 17,000 Parliamentarians and parliamentary staff across nine Regions and 56 countries.
The King has followed in the late Queen’s footsteps in visiting many Commonwealth Parliaments and has met with many Commonwealth Speakers and Members of Parliament.
Here, we showcase some of The King’s and The Queen Consort’s visits to Parliaments in the Commonwealth over the years.
Above: In both 1970 and 1974 as The Prince of Wales, King Charles accompanied the late Queen Elizabeth II, as well as Prince Philip and Princess Anne, on an official visit to New Zealand when the Royal Family visited Parliament House in Wellington for the State Opening by the monarch. On a later visit in 1983, King Charles also visited the ‘Beehive’ New Zealand Government building to attend a state dinner.
Above: The new Parliament building in Papua New Guinea was officially opened by King Charles, as The Prince of Wales, in August 1984. King Charles has visited Papua New Guinea four times, most recently in 2012 for the Diamond Jubilee. (Image: Alamy)
Above: In 2014, The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall listened to a Youth Parliament debate in the main chamber at the Provincial Legislature of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown, Canada. The visit to Canada marked the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, which led to Canadian Confederation. (Image credit: Canada Heritage).
Above: In 2019, The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited the new Parliament Building in St George's, Grenada where they attended an official welcome ceremony with the Governor-General, Dame Cécile La Grenade, the Prime Minister, Dr Keith Mitchell and Members of both Houses of Parliament. (Image credit: Grenada Parliament/Getty).
Above: In November 2019, The Prince of Wales was greeted by the Speaker of the Solomon Islands Parliament, Hon. Patteson Oti and the Clerk of Parliament, Mr David Kusilifu at Parliament House before he addressed Members of Parliament. The Speaker presented The Prince with a ‘Hatu’ - a traditional war club that is said to resemble the Parliamentary mace which symbolizes the Speaker’s authority in the chamber. (Image credit: Solomon Islands Parliament).
Above: King Charles has visited the Parliament of the United Kingdom many times, most often when accompanying the late Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of the State Opening of Parliament over several years. The King and The Queen Consort also came to Westminster Hall in September 2022 to hear tributes to the late Queen Elizabeth II from the Lord Speaker and the Speaker of the House of Commons. (Image credit: UK Parliament/Speaker's Office).
Above: King Charles III returned to the UK Parliament in December 2022, to unveil a plaque on the floor of the historic Westminster Hall, which marked the site of the Lying-in-State of the late Queen Elizabeth II, and to unveil a gift from UK Parliamentarians to the late Queen, which marked the occasion of her Platinum Jubilee, a pair of unique lanterns with bronze sculptures at the base featuring the heraldic beasts of the United Kingdom. (Image credit: UK Parliament).
Above: King Charles has visited the Scottish Parliament six times in its history, most recently in September 2022 when he attended to hear tributes to the late Queen Elizabeth II. His first visit was as Prince of Wales when he attended the first opening ceremony in 1999 and he accompanied Queen Elizabeth II on several further visits. (Image credit: The Scottish Parliament).
Above: King Charles has visited the Wales Senedd several times, most recently in September 2022 when he attended to hear tributes to the late Queen Elizabeth II and previously in October 2021, when Queen Elizabeth II opened a new term of the Welsh Parliament accompanied by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall. (Image credit: Wales Senedd).
External websites - Useful links:
- The Royal Family’s Coronation webpage
- The Royal Family and the Commonwealth
- The Commonwealth Secretariat
- The Royal Commonwealth Society
Article posted on 05/05/2023.
Jeffrey Hyland is the Editor of The Parliamentarian, the CPA’s Journal of Commonwealth Parliaments.
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