As Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Platinum Jubilee this week, Commonwealth Business Communications reflects on the Sovereign’s service as Head of the Commonwealth for the past 70 years.
This year, Queen Elizabeth II became the first British Monarch in history to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee.
A series of events is taking place across the United Kingdom and Commonwealth states for an extended bank holiday weekend to celebrate HM The Queen’s anniversary.
Across the Commonwealth, The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Beacons will be lit on 2 June. The official lighting of the beacons will begin during a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London. Following this, Community Beacons will light up across the United Kingdom, as well as Commonwealth Beacons in all 54 capital cities of the Commonwealth.
On 3 June, a Service of Thanksgiving for The Queen’s reign will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral, London attended by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC.
The Queen and the Commonwealth through the years
Before her accession and to mark her 21st birthday, Her Majesty made a BBC broadcast during the royal tour of South Africa on 21 April 1947, during which she dedicated her life to the service of the Commonwealth:
“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
In February 1952, Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne following the death of her father, King George VI. She was later crowned on 2 June 1953 in Westminster Abbey in London, the 39th Sovereign to be crowned at the abbey.
The Head of the Commonwealth is recognised as the symbol of the free association of nations and serves as a leader alongside the Commonwealth Secretary-General and Commonwealth Chair-in-Office. The role is not a hereditary one, however, Queen Elizabeth II has also assumed that position from her late father.
At the time of her accession, the Commonwealth comprised of only eight states. Its modern form as a group of free and equal members had been established only three years previously when the London Declaration was signed – the document that in 1949 gave birth to the modern Commonwealth.
The organisation now counts 54 member countries, with nearly a third of the world’s population. Only two members, Rwanda and Mozambique, were not formerly part of the British empire.
The Queen’s reign was inaugurated with her first – and longest – Royal Tour of the Commonwealth from November 1953 to May 1954, during which she visited 13 countries and travelled an incredible 43,618 miles. Her Majesty was accompanied by her beloved husband, the late Prince Philip.
Between February 1952 to 2015, when the Queen last made an overseas visit, she visited all but two Commonwealth countries (Cameroon and Rwanda) making nearly 200 trips and visits to Commonwealth and UK Overseas Territories.
There are still 14 Commonwealth realms where the Monarch retains a ceremonial role as Head of State, but it is becoming increasingly likely that more states will follow the example of Barbados, which became a republic in 2021.
Queen Elizabeth II has attended almost every biannual Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), even against her government’s judgement when these have been deemed potentially controversial.
The British Sovereign has played a largely neutral role as Commonwealth Head as she does not hold any governing power. Only on one occasion she reportedly clashed with PM Margaret Thatcher over Thatcher’s scepticism towards tougher measures against the Apartheid in South Africa – whilst Commonwealth states fought to introduce sanctions.
In her latest message on the 2022 Commonwealth Day, the Queen renewed her lifelong dedication to the “family of nations” and addressed challenges ahead:
“Our family of nations continues to be a point of connection, cooperation and friendship. It is a place to come together to pursue common goals and the common good, providing everyone with the opportunity to serve and benefit. In these testing times, it is my hope that you can draw strength and inspiration from what we share, as we work together towards a healthy, sustainable and prosperous future for all.”
Commonwealth Business Communications is pleased to present our latest publication in recognition of Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and her role as Head of the Commonwealth over the last 70 years.
Download the publication for free here: Queen & Commonwealth: Celebrating Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee.