Prince Charles has told the countries which still have the Queen as Head of State that they can transition to a republic should they so wish. The prince, who is the future Head of the Commonwealth, says the process can happen “calmly and without rancour”. He will address the leaders of all Commonwealth countries at the CHOGM summit - the Commonwealth Heads of government meeting - in Kigali. There are 54 nations in the Commonwealth but there are 14 countries outside the UK which are Commonwealth Realms - where the British Monarch remains the Head of State.
Those Realms include Australia, New Zealand, Belize, Jamaica and Canada. The Prince of Wales will tell the Opening Ceremony of the CHOGM summit in Rwanda: “I want to say clearly, as I have said before, that each member’s constitutional arrangement, as republic or monarchy, is purely a matter for each member country to decide.” The heir to the throne has expressed similar sentiments before but it is the timing which is crucial, given the increasing desire from some countries for a change in their constitutional arrangements with the UK.
Last year, Barbados replaced the Queen with a president as it chose to become a republic. The Jamaican Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, recently told Prince William and Kate on their Caribbean tour that he wanted his country to go the same way. Australia has recently elected a prime minister, Anthony Albanese, who has expressed a which to become a republic. Prince Charles, who is representing the Queen at the summit in Rwanda, will tell other Commonwealth leaders: “The benefit of long life brings me the experience that arrangements such as these can change, calmly and without rancour.” Charles was at the transition ceremony in Barbados in November last year when the Queen was replaced with a president at a midnight ceremony.
'The people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude,' Prince Charles said as he spoke as Barbados officially cut ties with the UK last year
The start summit has been overshadowed by the growing rift between Downing Street and Prince Charles’ office over the leak of the Prince’s comments on Boris Johnson’s Rwandan asylum seeker policy which Charles is reported to have called “appalling”. The prime minister and Prince will meet face-to-face on Friday, but officials on both sides say the asylum policy will not be one of the topics discussed. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have been in Rwanda for the first ever royal visit to this country - which is a former Belgian colony unlike many of the other members of the Commonwealth which were formerly in the British Empire.
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Prince Charles will say: “The Commonwealth contains within it, countries that have had constitutional relationships with my family, some that continue to do so, and increasingly those that have had none.” He will tell the other Commonwealth leaders that they are part of “a free association of independent self-governing nations and that they “meet and talk as equals”. The Kigali summit shows how far Rwanda has come since the horrors of the genocide here in 1994 in which at least 800,000 people were killed. Prince Charles and Camilla remembered the victims on the first day of their tour here. Before they leave Rwanda tonight, Charles and Camilla are hosting a dinner for the Heads of government in Kigali.