Head of the Commonwealth
|Head of the
|Inaugural holder||King George VI|
|Formation||28 April 1949|
The Head of the Commonwealth is the symbolic pinnacle and "symbol of the free association of [the] independent member nations" of the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation which currently comprises 53 sovereign states. The role of the Head of the Commonwealth itself involves no part in the day-to-day governance of any of the member states within the Commonwealth of Nations.
At present, the position is occupied by Queen Elizabeth II, who also serves as monarch of each of the 16 members of the Commonwealth of Nations that are, as such, called the Commonwealth realms. The title was created due to India's desire to become a republic but not depart the Commonwealth of Nations; King George VI was thus the first Head of the Commonwealth. There is no agreement concerning whether the office will pass to Elizabeth's heir, along with her other offices.
The title was devised in the London Declaration as a result of discussions at the 1949 Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference,1 but was not added to the monarch's style until 1953. In that year, a Royal Style and Titles Act was passed separately in six of the seven Commonwealth realms then existing (Pakistan being the exception), which gave formal recognition to the separateness and the equality of the realms.
|Afrikaans||Hoof van die Statebond (lit. 'Head of the Confederation')||South Africa|
|Chinese||共和联邦元首n 1 (lit. 'Head of the Republic Federation')||Singapore|
|French||Chef du Commonwealth||Cameroon, Canada, Seychelles, Vanuatu, British Crown dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey|
|Greek||Αρχηγός της Κοινοπολιτείας||Republic of Cyprus, Akrotiri and Dhekelia (British Overseas Territory, Sovereign Base Areas)|
|Hindi||राष्ट्रमंडल के प्रमुख Rāṣṭramaṇḍala kē Pramukh||Republic of India|
|Latin||Consortionis Populorum Princeps||Various (as secondary title, especially in the United Kingdomn 22)|
|Malay||Ketua Komanwel||Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore|
|Māori||Upoko o Nga Herenga ki Ingarangi (lit. 'Leader of the links with England')||New Zealand|
|Portuguese||Chefe da Commonwealth||Mozambique|
The role of the Head of the Commonwealth is recognised by the members of the Commonwealth as the "symbol of their free association". Elizabeth II serves as a leader, with assistants that play key roles, such as the Commonwealth Secretary-General and Commonwealth Chairperson-in-Office.
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, a tradition begun by the monarch on the advice of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1973,3 when the first CHOGM was held on Canadian soil. 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.
The London Declaration of 1949, devised by Canadian prime minister Louis St. Laurent, stated that King George VI, as the symbol of the free association of the countries of the Commonwealth, is the Head of the Commonwealth.4 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. When India adopted a republican constitution on 26 January 1950, it recognised George VI as the symbol of the association but no longer as India's monarch.
Elizabeth II became Head of the Commonwealth when she ascended to the throne in 1952. On her accession, she announced "[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."5
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.6
|George VI||14 December 1895||6 February 1952||28 April 1949n 3||6 February 1952|
|Elizabeth II||21 April 1926||Living||6 February 1952n 4||Incumbent|
- List of titles and honours of King George VI
- List of titles and honours of Queen Elizabeth II
- Timeline of Commonwealth of Nations history
- The Chinese titles are varied by country/region. It is written in Simplified Chinese characters. Mandarin Hanyu Pinyin: Gònghé Liánbāng Yuánshǒu. Mandarin is one of the four official languages of Singapore and Simplified Chinese is the official script.
- In the United Kingdom, the sovereign's titles in Latin have been regulated by laws.
- Based on the London Declaration and does not match his reign as king, which began on 11 December 1936.
- Date of Elizabeth II's accession to the throne of the Commonwealth realms.
- London Declaration 1949, Commonwealth Secretariat, retrieved 2 April 2013
- "Biography of ELIZABETH II (UK)". archontology.org.
- Heinricks, Geoff (2001), "Trudeau and the monarchy; National Post", Canadian Monarchist News (Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada), Winter/Spring 2000–2001, retrieved 26 February 2010
- London Declaration, Commonwealth Secretariat, 1949, retrieved 29 July 2013
- "Head of the Commonwealth". Commonwealth Secretariat.
- "Mailbox". Royal Insight. September 2006. p. 3. Archived from the original on 19 November 2008.