King Charles used his first Commonwealth Day address to issue a rallying call to the family of nations urging them to “strive together” to achieve a “global common good”.
The king delivered his speech during the annual Westminster Abbey service celebrating the Commonwealth and highlighted the institution’s “indispensable role in the most pressing issues of our time”.
King Charles also described how Commonwealth Day was a moment of pride for the late Queen Elizabeth II, paying tribute to his “beloved mother”, who “dedicated her long and remarkable life” in service to the “Commonwealth family”.
Among the guests were the Queen Consort, the Prince and Princess of Wales, the new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, the Princess Royal and the Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Scotland alongside faith leaders, dignitaries and hundreds of schoolchildren.
King Charles’s first Commonwealth Day service as monarch attracted a large number of spectators and a handful of protesters, carrying placards with the words “Not my king”. Protesters have staged events at a number of his royal engagements.
For his speech the king drew on the Commonwealth Day theme for 2023 — Forging a Sustainable and Peaceful Common Future — and emphasised the values of the family of nations from “peace and justice” to “care for our environment” embodied in the Commonwealth Charter, signed 10 years ago.
“Whether on climate change and biodiversity loss, youth opportunity and education, global health or economic co-operation, the Commonwealth can play an indispensable role in the most pressing issues of our time," he told the congregation.
“Ours is an association not just of shared values, but of common purpose and joint action.
“In this we are blessed with the ingenuity and imagination of a third of the world’s population, including one and a half billion people under the age of 30.
“Our shared humanity contains an immensely precious diversity of thought, culture, tradition and experience. By listening to each other, we will find so many of the solutions that we seek.”
Syrians affected by earthquake meet King Charles at Trafalgar Square - in pictures
The king, who is head of the Commonwealth, delivered his address in person from the abbey’s great pulpit in a move that was a departure from previous messages from the queen, whose speech was sometimes recorded.
He concluded his message by saying: “The myriad connections between our nations have sustained and enriched us for more than seven decades. Our commitment to peace, progress and opportunity will sustain us for many more.
“Let ours be a Commonwealth that not only stands together, but strives together, in restless and practical pursuit of the global common good.”
The king will be crowned at Westminster Abbey on May 6 and in his bidding the Dean of Westminster, Dr David Hoyle, referenced the coronation ceremony as the Commonwealth Day service began.
“We will pray too for our king as we look to the day when we will gather here again in loyalty and affection," he said.
“As people of faith, hope and compassion we shall pray for the peoples of Turkey, Syria and Ukraine, and all for whom the last year has brought great suffering and loss.”
The congregation also included the Prime Minister of Samoa, high commissioners and athletes from the home nations who competed at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last summer.
Hymns were sung and prayers recited during the service which drew on the diversity of the Commonwealth for performances.
The Ngati Ranana London Maori Club performed a traditional welcome for the monarch and his wife while during the service the Amalgamation Choir — an all-female group from Cyprus — sang, and there was a performance from Urukerereza, the Rwandan National Ballet and saxophonist Yolanda Brown played the Bob Marley hit Is This Love.
After the ceremony, the king and members of the royal family thanked the performers, including Brown who revealed the Marley song had been requested by Buckingham Palace.
“It’s a song I’ve been playing for many years and it’s my arrangement and Buckingham Palace asked for it," she said.