Commonwealth starts secret talks on who will succeed Queen

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An agenda for the all-day meeting, seen by the BBC, tabled "wider governance considerations" for discussion - which insiders say is code for succession planning.

Leadership of the Commonwealth of Nations - consisting of 53 states and territories and with a population of 2.4bn - is not hereditary, so will not necessarily pass to Prince Charles upon the Queen's death.

The Commonwealth Secretariat has denied that a high level group of Commonwealth officials has met in London to consider who might succeed the Queen as its head.

There has also been discussion in the past of electing a ceremonial leader - removed from the monarchy - in an attempt to improve the body's democratic credentials.

The meeting in London aimed at focusing on the future governance of the Commonwealth, could also talk about the possible candidate who would take over after the queen's death.

One said: "I imagine the question of the succession, however distasteful it may naturally be, will come up". Because of this, the title would not pass automatically to Prince Charles, who is next in line to the British throne followed by Prince William.

"There are various formulas being played with", the source said.

Tuesday 2nd June 1953 at Westminster Abbey changed history forever
Tuesday 2nd June 1953 at Westminster Abbey changed history forever

However, The Guardian reports that sources have insisted "devising procedures to select the next head of the Commonwealth was "outside the group's formal mandate" and not on the meeting's agenda".

The succession plans are going to be discussed at the group's upcoming meeting in London, though the official objective of the summit is to review how the Commonwealth is managed by its governors and secretariat.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II now holds the title of Head of the Commonwealth, a symbolic position that has remained with the Queen since her coronation in 1953.

The Queen has been working to ensure it is Charles that succeeds her.

A second source added that the issue is likely to be discussed by Commonwealth leaders when they meet without officials "on retreat" at Windsor Castle. Buckingham Palace says the issue is a matter for the Commonwealth itself to resolve.

India has either chosen not to join or been left out of the high-level group, whose members include Chairman Anote Tong, former President of Kiribati; Lord Howell, former British energy secretary; Louise Frechette, former United Nations deputy secretary-general; Robert Hill, former Australian defence minister; Dame Billie Miller, former deputy Prime Minister of Barbados; Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Nigerian finance minister; and George Vella, former deputy Prime Minister of Malta.

The spokesman further members may be appointed to the group, which operates independently of the Secretariat. A whole section of his website is devoted to the Commonwealth, noting that he has visited 41 out of 53 countries and has been a "proud supporter" for more than four decades.

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