The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attended the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey this afternoon. The service is considered the premier event of the Commonwealth year, offering an opportunity to reflect on the ties that bind member nations together and to look to future hopes and plans.
To mark Commonwealth Day, Harry and Meghan also attended an event at Canada House to celebrate the diverse community of young Canadians living in London. The Commonwealth is a key focus of the Sussexes' work both at home and abroad. Last week, the Duchess was appointed vice president of the Queen's Commonwealth Trust. During an International Women's Day panel on Friday, Meghan said she feels "very, very privileged" to hold the position.The couple joined the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of York.
The Commonwealth represents a global network of 53 countries and almost 2.4 billion people, a third of the world’s population, of whom 60 per cent are under 30 years old. The Commonwealth Day Act of Observance is the UK’s largest multi-faith service. Buckingham Palace said "The Commonwealth’s governments, institutions and people connect at many levels, including through parliaments and universities. They work together to protect the natural environment and the ocean which connects many Commonwealth nations, shore to shore. Cooperation on trade encourages inclusive economic empowerment for all people - particularly women, youth and marginalised communities. The Commonwealth’s friendly sporting rivalry encourages people to participate in sport for development and peace."
Commonwealth Day has a special significance this year, as 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth, with old ties and new links enabling cooperation towards social, political and economic development which is both inclusive and sustainable.
Each year a new theme is proposed to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and presented to the Queen for approval. The chosen theme very much leads the agenda throughout the year in terms of activities, plans and areas of focus. This year the chosen theme is 'A Connected Commonwealth' celebrating friendship and goodwill and encouraging collaboration to protect the environment and natural resources.
Last year a landmark decision was taken when leaders came together to adopt the Commonwealth Blue Charter, which will positively affect one third of the world’s national coastal waters, helping to sustain livelihoods and ecosystems globally. Under the Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment there is increased cooperation towards inclusive economic empowerment so that all people, particularly women, youth and marginalised communities, are able to share the fruit of progress and prosperity. Speaking at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London in 2018, the Secretary-General said: "Member countries have told us they need to work together to sustain the health of our ocean. Blue ecosystems are being degraded at an unprecedented rate and this is not an issue any country can solve alone." It's incredibly encouraging to see a plan of action coming to fruition collectively to combat a global issue of major concern.
Her Majesty's Commonwealth Day message for this year focused on the "enduring commitment" of all 53 countries and spoke of "confidence and optimism" thanks to stable links, as the UK readies for Brexit:
"We all have reason to give thanks for the numerous ways in which our lives are enriched when we learn from others. Through exchanging ideas, and seeing life from other perspectives, we grow in understanding and work more collaboratively towards a common future.
There is a very special value in the insights we gain through the Commonwealth connection; shared inheritances help us overcome difference so that diversity is a cause for celebration rather than division. We shall see this in action at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting which takes place in the United Kingdom next month, bringing together young people, business and civil society from across the Commonwealth.
These gatherings are themselves fine examples of how consensus and commitment can help to create a future that is fairer, more secure, more prosperous and sustainable. Having enjoyed the warm hospitality of so many Commonwealth countries over the years, I look forward to the pleasure of welcoming the leaders of our family of 53 nations to my homes in London and Windsor.
Sport also contributes to building peace and development. The excitement and positive potential of friendly rivalry will be on display next month as we enjoy the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia. Contributing to the success of the Games, alongside athletes and officials, will be thousands of volunteers. Voluntary effort, by people working as individuals, in groups or through larger associations, is so often what shapes the Commonwealth and all our communities.
By pledging to serve the common good in new ways, we can ensure that the Commonwealth continues to grow in scope and stature, to have an even greater impact on people's lives, today, and for future generations.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Her Majesty arrived with the Duke of York.
Meghan was greeted with a kiss by William, Kate, Charles and Camilla inside.
The foursome chatting.
I watched the service live on BBC One and noticed Meghan and Charles talking and joking for quite a bit of time before the procession.
We've talked about how close they are over the past year. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them teaming up for an engagement soon.
Guests of honour among the 2,000 strong congregation inlcuded the Prime Minister Theresa May, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, alongside High Commissioners, Ambassadors and dignitaries, senior politicians from across the UK and Commonwealth, faith leaders and over 800 school children and young people. The service commenced with a procession of Commonwealth Flags.
Highlights of the service included special musical performances by Grammy-winning group Clean Bandit and the UK’s biggest-selling tenor, Alfie Boe.
Clean Bandit performed their hit Symphony.
The reflection was given by endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh. He has worked to raise awareness of the vulnerability of the earth’s ecosystems and campaigned for their protection. Mr Pugh said: “There is nothing more powerful than a made up mind”.
Prime Minister Theresa May read 1 Corinthians 12: 14-26. ‘The body does not consist of one member but of many... If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.’
Internationally-acclaimed didgeridoo player, William Barton, plays ‘Kalkadungu’s Journey’.
The Duke and Duchess met members of the choir.
A great photo of Harry and Meghan as they departed.
View the service in its entirety below.
Last year, just two months before the wedding, Meghan chose the Amanda Wakeley Crombie coat (which has since become a favourite piece) and Springsteen dress teamed with a Stephen Jones hat for the service.
The Duchess selected an ensemble and accessories by Victoria Beckham today. The terrific UFO No More team received confirmation Meghan's cream coat is from the Autumn/Winter 2019 Collection and will be available later this year. The British designer (and former Spice Girl) is fast becoming a go-to for Meghan.
Meghan's dress is Beckham's Printed Crepe Long Sleeve Midi dress. The chain-link print dress is described as: "Detailed with a scarf-effect collar, it has a blousy bodice is cinched in at the waist to reveal a flowy midi-length hem". It's available for £1668 at Moda Operandi in sizes 6-16.
A closer look at Meghan's hat.
Meghan's green satin pumps and clutch are also Victoria Beckham pieces.
Laura notes the Satin Pumps, like the coat and dress, are part of the Fall 2019 collection. They are available for pre-order in pink, yellow and orange at Moda Operandi for £450.
Meghan accessorised with her $145 Dean Davidson Signature Midi Knockout studs.
And it appears Meghan wore Diana's shimmering diamond bracelet once again.
Whilst looking on Westminster Abbey's Facebook page over the weekend, I noticed they shared the perfect spring photo of daffodils in the Abbey's college garden.
It very much reminded me of one of my favourite Wordsworth poems. 'I wandered lonely as a cloud, That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze..' The inspiration for the poem came during a long walk Wordsworth took with his sister Dorothy around Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater in the Lake District where he spotted a "belt of daffodils". Below a beautiful watercolour of Ullswater by J.M.W. Turner.
If you're just joining us, click here to view today's earlier post.
Did you enjoy the Commonwealth Day events?