Senior Commonwealth officials are holding secret talks here to decide who will succeed 91-year-old Queen Elizabeth II, media reports said on Tuesday. The Queen was proclaimed Head of the Commonwealth at her coronation in 1953, when she was the head of state in seven of the organisation’s eight members.
A high-level group of Commonwealth officials today held a day-long summit here and, according to insiders, were poised to discuss who should replace the monarch after her death. The meeting’s agenda, seen by BBC, includes consideration of wider governance, which sources told the broadcaster was code for the succession.
The post of the head of the Commonwealth is not a hereditary position that will pass automatically to the Prince of Wales, currently Prince Charles, 69, when the monarch dies. Charles will be head of state in only 15 of the 53 nations and territories that now make up the Commonwealth. A Commonwealth source, speaking to The Independent, denied that the issue of Queen’s successor would be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, chaired by Anote Tong, former President of Kiribati.
But it is expected that succession plans will be raised at a summit of Commonwealth heads of government in London in April. The meeting, held in every few years, is likely to be last attended by Elizabeth. Any decision about the future will be made by the Commonwealth heads of government at the time of the Queen’s death, but there is no formal process of choosing her successor.
While many Commonwealth figures presume there will be no realistic alternative to Charles, there has in the past been talks of electing a ceremonial leader to improve the organisation’s democratic credentials. According to documents seen by BBC, the high-level group will not just confine itself to bureaucratic changes. One insider said: “I imagine the question of the succession, however distasteful it may naturally be, will come up”.