Statement on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Patron of the Royal Commonwealth Society
The Royal Commonwealth Society is immensely saddened to learn of the passing of our Patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. We express our deepest sympathies and condolences to His Majesty The King, The Queen Consort and all Members of the Royal Family at this time.
From her public commitment to the Commonwealth family in Cape Town, South Africa, as a young princess in 1947, and throughout her long life and reign, The Queen was an instrumental figure in nurturing and inspiring this unique, voluntary association of independent, and sovereign nations.
Since becoming the Head of the Commonwealth and Patron of the Society in 1952 at the age of 26, The Queen’s dedication to the Commonwealth has been unparalleled. From her numerous official visits to nearly every Commonwealth country, to lending her name and support to programmes and events of which the Society has been honoured to deliver and support, including The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy and The Queen’s Young Leaders, Her Majesty’s commitment to the value, and values, of this network of nations and peoples is humbling and irreplaceable.
Executive Chair of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Dr Linda Yueh, said:
“No-one has made a greater contribution to the Commonwealth over the decades than The Queen. As Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty personally reinforced the links by which this unique network brings peoples and countries from around the globe together in common cause.
Her life and tireless efforts will forever be linked to this voluntary association of 56 independent and equal, sovereign states, which encompass over 2.5 billion people, and to whom The Queen displayed an unwavering dedication.
As Patron of the Royal Commonwealth Society, The Queen was unstinting and gracious in her support, attending many of our highest-profile events, including the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey and the High Commissioners’ Banquet. She also lent her name to a number of programmes that the Society has been honoured to deliver, including The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, the world’s oldest international schools’ writing contest, The Queen’s Young Leaders, and most recently The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy.
Her Majesty’s lifetime of indefatigable and selfless commitment to the Commonwealth and the Society will be truly missed.”
THE COMMONWEALTH SERVICE
Organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society, the Commonwealth Service is the world’s premier, inter-faith, public event to celebrate the Commonwealth of Nations and provides an opportunity to focus attention on this voluntary association of 56 countries and their commitment to promoting democracy, human rights, the rule of law and equality for its 2.5 billion citizens.
This annual event, which is currently held at Westminster Abbey, celebrates the unity, diversity, and linkages of the modern Commonwealth and seeks to foster greater understanding of the Commonwealth’s achievements and role, particularly amongst its young people.
As Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II attended this high-profile event and was regularly joined by Senior Members of the Royal Family, Commonwealth and UK political and diplomatic representatives, members of the public and hundreds of young people from across the United Kingdom.
Centred on the Commonwealth theme, the Service features a vibrant mixture of testimonies, performances, and readings from different parts of the Commonwealth. In recent years, the Society has been honoured by the participation of Nobel Laureates Kofi Annan, Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi as well as UN Patron of Oceans Lewis Pugh, Ophthalmologist Dr Andrew Bastawrous and world heavy-weight boxing champion and Olympic gold medallist, Anthony Joshua OBE.
THE QUEEN'S COMMONWEALTH ESSAY COMPETITION
The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition (QCEC) is the world’s oldest international writing competition for schools and has been delivered by the Royal Commonwealth Society since 1883. It has been delivered in Her Majesty’s name since 2015, in recognition of The Queen’s selfless commitment to the Commonwealth and, in the past decade alone, the competition has engaged over 100,000 young people, over 5,000 schools and around 1,000 volunteer judges.
The QCEC seeks to introduce young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, under-represented demographics and remote communities to the idea of writing for fun, developing key literacy skills and working to increase academic attainment. Through its promotion of literacy and writing skills, the QCEC contributes to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 (Quality Education) in over 60 countries and territories and the Society aims to reach even more young people throughout the Commonwealth in the coming years through our digital literacy initiative.
Each year, young people write on a theme that stems from the Commonwealth’s values and principles, developing key literacy skills whilst also fostering an empathetic and open-minded world view. Recent themes have focused on the environment, inclusion, the role of youth leadership, and gender equality. Their pieces drew out innovative ideas for positive change and encouraged young people to consider new perspectives.
Past winners have gone on to become leaders in their fields, including the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Mei Fong, and the renowned author, the late Elspeth Huxley CBE.
THE QUEEN'S COMMONWEALTH CANOPY
The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy (QCC) was launched at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta in 2015, with the vision of creating a pan-Commonwealth network of forest conservation projects that marks Her Majesty The Queen’s service to the Commonwealth and conserves indigenous forests for future generations. It is the first environmental initiative that The Queen gave her name to.
Since its creation in 2015, when seven countries initially committed themselves to the initiative, a total of 54 Commonwealth countries are now committed to the QCC. Collectively, those countries have dedicated in excess of 115 sites and projects to the QCC, conserving almost 12 million hectares of indigenous forests around the Commonwealth.
From botanical gardens in the Caribbean, to the diverse forests of the world’s largest sand island, and a gene bank of forests found in Africa’s Great Rift Valley, the QCC continues to create tangible benefits for communities and the environment across the Commonwealth, demonstrating the value of Commonwealth nations working together towards a common outcome.