The Queen has called on Commonwealth leaders to appoint her son as the next head of the organisation.
While opening the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, she declared it is her “sincere wish” that Prince Charles take over “one day”.
After years of preparation and lobbying behind the scenes, the comments are the most explicit statement Her Majesty has made about the position, which she has held since 1952.
The role is not hereditary and representatives from the 53 Commonwealth countries are expected to make a decision on succession on Friday.
But the Queen’s remarks effectively signal that the Prince of Wales has already been chosen as the organisation’s next head.
“It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth continues to offer stability and continuity for future generations and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949,” she said.
So, as part of the continuous debate about how to make the organisation more relevant in the 21st century, some had suggested the next head of the Commonwealth should be directly elected.
The argument was someone from a small, lesser known nation may help the club lose its colonial image.
But several countries, including Australia, have argued it makes more sense to keep giving the title to the Monarch.
This is partly because the future kings of England, Charles, William and George, are always likely to have substantial global star power that can be leveraged to promote the organisation’s many varied campaigns and causes.
Of course, the debate is now moot.
The Queen is highly unlikely to have made her public comments if the issue wasn’t already settled.
The Queen committed herself to the institution at 21.
This CHOGM, which comes two days before her 92nd birthday, is likely to be the last that she presides over.
Her Majesty avoids long-haul flights and it will be some time before the biennial summit returns to England.
Prince Charles already often stands in for his mother, including at the recent Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
But the Queen’s comments are so significant because it is exceptionally rare for members of the Royal Family or spokespeople from the Palace to publicly discuss what happens once Her Majesty’s reign ends.
Australia signalled its preference for Prince Charles to become the next head of the Commonwealth five years ago when Julia Gillard was Prime Minister.
This week Malcolm Turnbull again restated the Government’s view that the “monarch of the United Kingdom” should hold the role.
Prince Charles, who is long understood to have coveted the title, told leaders “the Commonwealth has been a fundamental feature of my life for as long as I can remember”.
The opening of CHOGM, which took place in Buckingham Palace in the heart of the old British Empire, had an echo of imperial grandeur.
More than 100 officers and soldiers marched in red tunics, before a 53-gun salute opened the summit.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May led the tributes to Her Majesty for her decades of service, describing the Queen as a “fervent champion” of the Commonwealth.