King Charles drew on his mother’s inspiration as he celebrated his first Commonwealth Day as a symbolic head of congregation with Mass in London’s Westminster Abbey, and he was joined by other senior members of the royal family.
Charles succeeded his mother, Queen Elizabeth, as president of the 56-nation club that evolved from the British Empire after her death last September at the age of 96.
“I draw great strength from her example,” he told the congregation, “along with all that I have learned from the extraordinary people I have met, throughout the Commonwealth, over many years.”
“The Commonwealth has been a constant in my life, yet its diversity continues to surprise and inspire me.”
The 74-year-old monarch was joined to serve by his wife Camilla, the Queen’s Queen, and his eldest son Prince William and his wife Kate.
He was greeted with a traditional Māori welcome outside the monastery and also by a boisterous protest from a small number of republicans who pledged to express their views on the dates before his coronation in May.
The Commonwealth, one of the world’s largest international organizations, was always very close to Elizabeth’s heart and some commentators say helping to maintain and expand it was one of the great successes of her 70-year reign.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “Her Majesty the late Queen loved the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Commonwealth loved her.”
“In our mourning her death, our admiration for all that she was, and our abiding gratitude for all that she has done for us, we can all take heart from the fact that her vision of the Commonwealth, as an equal partnership of nations and races, is bearing fruit.”
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