To crown or not to crown prince

Debate on Commonwealth post for Charles

By Amit Roy in London
  • Published 14.02.18
 Amitav Banerji

London: The Commonwealth has secretly set up a high-level group to discuss the "very sensitive question" of whether Prince Charles should succeed the Queen as head of the 53-member organisation when she is no more, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

The Queen, who turns 92 in April, was proclaimed head of the Commonwealth at her coronation in 1953, when she was head of state in seven of its eight members.

Although the Queen took over from her father George VI, hers is not a hereditary position that will pass automatically to her eldest son. The Queen's successor will be head of state in only 15 of the 53 member nations that now make up the Commonwealth.

Ironically, although Charles is known to be fiercely pro-Indian, the only person known to have been part of a plot to ensure he does not succeed the Queen is an Indian - and a Bengali.

Amitav Banerji, the former Commonwealth secretariat director of political affairs, reportedly told a US embassy political officer in London that the prince "does not command the same respect" as the Queen.

Prince Charles

This intelligence, later revealed by WikiLeaks, was contained in a 2009 diplomatic cable sent to Washington.

The general opinion of successive Indian governments and diplomatic missions in London has been that Charles would be eminently suitable for the job.

The BBC reported on Tuesday that the high-level group would report to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London from April 16-20, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend.

Although the group is ostensibly examining questions of "governance", one source is quoted by the BBC: "I imagine the question of the succession, however distasteful it may naturally be, will come up."

Another source said "the issue of the succession is expected to be discussed by Commonwealth leaders on the margins of the summit, particularly when they meet without officials 'on retreat' at Windsor Castle".

India has either chosen not to join or been left out of the high-level group, whose members include Chairman Anote Tong, former President of Kiribati; Lord Howell, former British energy secretary; Louise Frechette, former United Nations deputy secretary-general; Robert Hill, former Australian defence minister; Dame Billie Miller, former deputy Prime Minister of Barbados; Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Nigerian finance minister; and George Vella, former deputy Prime Minister of Malta.