Abbey Commonwealth Service

The Queen will take part in a special service at Westminster Abbey to mark Commonwealth Day today, in her first official engagement since her hospital stay last week.

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Commonwealth facts

The Commonwealth celebration in Westminster Abbey today

1 As of 2012 there are 54 countries in the Commonwealth, containing about one quarter of the world's population.

2 The origins of the Commonwealth come from Britain's former Empire. Many of the members of the Commonwealth were territories which had historically come under British rule at various times by settlement, conquest or cession.

3 The Queen is Queen of 16 the 54 Commonwealth member countries, all of them fully independent. She is represented by a Governor-General in all Realms except the UK.

4 Commonwealth Day, marked on the second Monday in March, is the annual celebration of the Commonwealth. The day was chosen as one when all Commonwealth children would be in school.

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Commonwealth Charter to be signed on Monday

The Queen will sign the new Commonwealth Charter in an event on Monday after it received the support of every Commonwealth nation.

According to the Mail on Sunday, the charter which backs equal rights for women and gay people says:

We recognise that gender equality and women's empowerment are essential components of human development and basic human rights.

The advancement of women's rights and the education of girls are critical preconditions for effective and sustainable development.

The Government is introducing new legislation ending discrimination against women in the line of succession to the British throne.

The measure will mean that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first baby can succeed to the throne, regardless of whether the child is a girl or a boy.

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Report: The Queen to sign new equal rights charter

The Queen is set to sign a new charter backing equal rights for women and gay people after it received the support of every Commonwealth nation, it was reported tonight.

The monarch will sign the new Commonwealth Charter in an event on Monday which includes the core values - from human rights to the rule of law - that leaders have committed to upholding.

Reports suggest Her Majesty will sign the new Commonwealth Charter on Monday. Credit: Ian Gavan/PA Wire/Press Association Images

According to the Mail on Sunday, the document declares: "We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.

Insiders said the decision to highlight the event is a "watershed" moment because it is the first time she has signalled her support for gay rights in her 61-year reign, the paper claimed.

The Queen is expected to sign the document at London's Marlborough House, the Pall Mall headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat on Monday, which is Commonwealth Day.

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Report: The Queen 'fights for gay rights'

At a Commonwealth event on Monday, the Queen will sign a charter agreed upon by the 54 members of the Commonwealth.

The Queen, as in all matters, is apolitical but is signing the document in her capacity as head of the Commonwealth.

– Buckingham Palace spokesman

The Mail on Sunday quoted one Royal Household source as saying: "The Queen takes her Commonwealth role very seriously. She has discussed the charter in detail with her advisers and understands it in full."

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Queen celebrates Commonwealth Day after illness

The Queen is to sign a new charter backing equal rights for women and gay people in every Commonwealth nation.

In a special ceremony to mark Commonwealth Day, she will endorse the document which includes the core values - from human rights to the rule of law - that leaders have committed to upholding.

In a pre-recorded speech to be broadcast today, the monarch will say the values of the new charter have "special emphasis" on including everyone in striving for a better future.

Read the full text and listen to the speech here:

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