Today’s Commonwealth Day service marks the first of King Charles as a sovereign. The monarch is leading the Royal Family and the 54-strong membership as hundreds of people are gathered at Westminster Abbey for the annual multi-faith service. The King will be accompanied at the London abbey, where in less than two months he will be crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, by his wife Queen Camilla.
The Prince and Princess of Wales will also be in attendance, for the first time since Prince William became the heir to the throne.
Also taking part in the royal procession ahead of the service is Prince Edward, created Duke of Edinburgh by the monarch on his 59th birthday last week, and his wife Sophie, now the Duchess of Edinburgh.
Finally, the sovereign was joined by his trustworthy sister Princess Anne and her non-working royal husband, Sir Timothy Laurence.
King Charles’s attendance at the poignant service also marks a break with royal tradition, as the sovereign is to deliver a speech during the ceremony.
In previous years, Queen Elizabeth II had her statement published on the order of the service and broadcast in its audio version.
The King will instead leave his personal mark today and read his message from the abbey’s Great Pulpit.
Speaking about this groundbreaking decision, Professor Philip Murphy of the Institute of Historical Research previously told the Times: “It could be quite significant, in terms of making a distinctive mark on the Commonwealth.
“The Commonwealth Day message, along with the Christmas Day message, is one of the very few times that the monarch makes a significant speech without seeking ministerial advice.
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“It provides unusual freedom of movement for a constitutional monarch.”
The much-anticipated speech, as revealed by the Daily Express earlier this month, is likely going to touch on climate change, the support for free and democratic societies and peace and prosperity around the Commonwealth and the world.
Today’s service is to include a reflection given by Brianna Fruean, a Samoan environmental advocate who at 16 became the youngest recipient of a Commonwealth youth award.
The theme of today’s Commonwealth Day is “forging a sustainable and peaceful common future”.
A second break with tradition will see the King hosting the Commonwealth Day reception at Buckingham Palace, still undergoing renovation, rather than at Marlborough House as it has happened in past years.
While this marks the first Commonwealth Day service attended by the King as the sovereign, it’s not the first time he leads the Royal Family on this day.
Last year, he stepped in for Elizabeth II as the late monarch was unable to celebrate the day in person due to the episodic mobility issues which troubled her for several months before her death.
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