The royal wedding isn’t the only major royal family-related event happening in the United Kingdom right now. Sure, all the details (known and emerging) about the upcoming nuptials between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are very exciting, but there’s another member of the family we need to talk about.
According to a report from the International Business Times, Queen Elizabeth II and members of the Commonwealth will likely be convening on Friday, April 20 to decide who the next head of the Commonwealth will be. What exactly does that mean, you ask? Basically government leaders of the nations with membership in the Commonwealth of Nations (aka, a lot of dudes) will determine who will succeed the queen in the orginzation when she either dies or abdicates her throne. While nobody wants to think about losing the queen, at her age (she’ll be 92 years old on April 21) these are questions that need to be answered.
According to a statement given by Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesperson, Prince Charles is, of course, the likely successor, and hopefully, he’ll be chosen because he has the full support of the Commonwealth. “The UK supports the Prince of Wales as the next head of the Commonwealth. He has been a proud supporter of the Commonwealth for more than four decades and has spoken passionately about the organization’s unique diversity,” they remarked. “Succession is a matter for the Commonwealth as a whole to determine.”
According to the website, the Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 “independent and equal sovereign states,” some of which once formed what you might remember from world history as the British Empire. Others have joined the organization over the years for political or governmental support, the most recent being Rwanda in 2009.
The Commonwealth is also described as a mutually supportive community that seeks to promote good governance, justice and human rights. On a practical level, that means the group provides “training and technical assistance and support(s) decision-makers to draw up legislation and deliver policies. We deploy experts and observers who offer impartial advice and solutions to national problems. We also provide systems, software and research for managing resources.” In addition, they promote the work of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate-change agreement.
Per the Commonwealth of Nations website, the job of head of the Commonwealth isn’t actually all that old. Until 1949, the British monarch simply ruled all the nations under its purview, but when India wanted to become a republic, the Commonwealth was created to allow some continuing cohesion among nations that had British ties. At the time, King George VI was named the first head of the Commonwealth, a role the queen was elected to when she took over for her father. The organization’s website describes the role now as having symbolic significance but no formal function. And whether Prince Charles is chosen or not will have no bearing on his position within the ruling structure of Britain.
So just a few more days, and we’ll know who’s going to take over the role next. Then we can get back to those deeply pressing royal matters of weddings and babies!