London: King Charles has issued a rallying call to the Commonwealth to “unite and be bold” in order to reach its “near boundless potential” as a force for good.
In his first Commonwealth Day address as monarch, which in a break from tradition was delivered from the pulpit at Westminster Abbey, the King said the diversity of the organisation’s 56 member states continued to “amaze and inspire” him.
Britain’s King Charles III is greeted by a member of a Maori group as he arrives to attend the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey.Credit:AP
The annual service comes amid increasing questions about the Commonwealth’s future, fuelled by a growing republican sentiment and calls for slavery reparations within former colonies.
As head of the Commonwealth, Charles will face inevitable change in the coming years as realms gradually break their ties with the British crown. Senior royals, including the Queen Consort, Prince William and Princess Katherine, joined the King at the Abbey.
On arrival, the King was welcomed at the West Door with a traditional Maori greeting by the Ngāti Rānana London Maori Club, rubbing noses with two of its members.
King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla host the Commonwealth community during the annual Commonwealth Day Reception at Buckingham Palace.Credit:Getty Images
Camilla, wearing a sapphire blue outfit by Fiona Clare and the late Queen’s sapphire and diamond brooch, had gone ahead, apparently fearful that her hat would be blown off in the strong winds.
Princess Catherine, also forced to hold onto her hat in the wind, wore a navy outfit adorned with the Prince of Wales feathers brooch, given to her last year by the King and passed down the generations from Queen Alexandra.
Charles opted to deliver his address from the pulpit, unlike his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, whose message was published along with a recorded audio version.
He said the organisation had an “imperative to act” in order to make a difference to the lives of its combined 2.6 billion strong population, more than half of whom are under the age of thirty.
“Whether on climate change and biodiversity loss, youth opportunity and education, global health, or economic co-operation, the Commonwealth can play an indispensable role in the most pressing issues of our time,” he said.
The King added: “Our shared humanity contains such precious diversity of thought, culture, tradition and experience.
“By listening to each other, we will find so many of the solutions that we seek.
“This extraordinary potential, which we hold in common, is more than equal to the challenges we face.
“It offers us unparalleled strength not merely to face the future, but to build it.”
Britain’s King Charles III speaks to members of the Commonwealth community.Credit:AP
Charles, whose theme was “forging a sustainable and peaceful common future”, said the Commonwealth had an “incredible opportunity, and responsibility” to create a future that was in harmony with nature and to preserve the planet for future generations.
He added: “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.”
The monarch also paid tribute to the late Queen, telling the congregation that the service was “an occasion of particular pride” for his beloved mother, from whose example he drew strength.
The service was due to include musical performances from saxophonist Yolanda Brown, West End stars Roshani Abbey and Nuwan Hugh Perera, and the all-female Amalgamation Choir, from Cyprus.
Among the guests of honour in the 2000-strong congregation were the Commonwealth secretary-general, the prime minister of Samoa, high commissioners, senior politicians and dignitaries from across the UK and the Commonwealth.
Also attending were athletes from the home nations who competed at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last summer, as well as faith leaders, and more than 750 schoolchildren and young people from across the UK.
This evening, Charles, Camilla and the attending members of the royal family will entertain the Commonwealth secretary-general, high commissioners, foreign affairs ministers and other members of the Commonwealth community at a Buckingham Palace reception.
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