LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II today made her first direct intervention into a succession plan for the Commonwealth, indicating that she would like her son and heir, Prince Charles, to take over as the Head of the 53-member organisation.
Queen, the Head of the Commonwealth, opened the summit for what may be the last time today.
In her opening speech for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Buckingham Palace in London, the 91-year-old monarch described the group as "growing stronger year by year" and the world's "great convening powers", which would benefit from the stability to be offered by the royal family.
"It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales will carry on the important work started by my father in 1949," the Queen said.
"By continuing to treasure and reinvigorate our associations and activities I believe we will secure a prosperous and more sustainable world for those who follow us," she said.
Her intervention comes amid ongoing speculation over a successor to the monarch, with the post of Head of Commonwealth not being a hereditary one.
Some experts have argued that it marks an opportunity for the organisation to distance itself from its colonial roots and appoint a non-royal to the role.
Others, however, claim that it is the royal family that holds the grouping of former British colonies together.
"It is to the incredible credit of the Queen and the royal family that it (Commonwealth) still exists, because without them it wouldn't. People have danced around the edges of it for too long," said Lord Marland, chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC).
The CHOGM in Britain will mark the last such summit to be hosted by the Queen, who has ruled out long-haul travel and therefore unlikely to travel to any future CHOGMs to be hosted by other member-states.
A decision on succession will be taken collectively by the 53 heads of government of the Commonwealth and the subject is expected to be the central feature of deliberations when the leaders get together for the CHOGM leaders' retreat on Friday at the grand Waterloo Chamber of Windsor Castle.
There is reportedly no general consensus over the Prince of Wales as the next Head of the Commonwealth, with India yet to confirm its stand on the matter.
The 69-year-old royal is reportedly keen to step into his mother's shoes but the decision will be up to the presidents and prime ministers representing the 53 member-countries, which will then be announced by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland.
Besides the issue of the future of the Commonwealth, the Queen also spoke about the importance of intra-Commonwealth trade and protecting the world's oceans.
"Here at Buckingham Palace in 1949 my father (King George VI) met the heads of government when they ratified the London declaration which made up the Commonwealth we know today, then comprising of just eight nations. Who would have guessed that a gathering of its member states would number 53 or comprise of 2. 4 billion people," she said.
In her opening remarks, British Prime Minister Theresa May thanked the Queen for her service to the organisation and told the leaders the summit would "take on some of the 21st century's biggest questions".
"There have been difficulties, successes, controversies, but I believe wholeheartedly in the good that the Commonwealth can do," she said.
Gunners at St.James' Park near the palace ended the formal launch ceremony with a 53-gun salute in honour of all members of the Commonwealth, following which the leaders head to Lancaster House for the executive session of CHOGM.