Prince Harry Meghan Markle royal family Commonwealth Day service Westminster Abbey 2018

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle leave Westminster Abbey after joining HM Queen Elizabeth II at the Commonwealth Day service. (Picture by Andrew Parsons / i-Images)

Queen Elizabeth II and virtually her entire royal family turned out for the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey. Which makes sense, because the Commonwealth is very much a family itself. Made up of 53 nations, all but two former British possessions,  it has seen intense family disputes—South Africa was banned for years because of apartheid–but in the end, it’s a voluntary organization that has struggled to define itself, emerging in recent years as a symbol of diversity and tolerance. With 2.4 billion people, it accounts for some 30 percent of the world’s population. This year, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will be in London, with the Queen hosting many events at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. The theme is “Towards a Common Future.”

If there is one unifying part of the Commonwealth, it’s the Queen. As royal biographer Richard Hardman, who is writing a book on the Commonwealth, stated on the BBC, “The Queen is the Commonwealth…she’s held it together. Were it not for her, this organization may very well not be here today.” The Queen has undertaken more than 200 visits to every nook and cranny of the Commonwealth during her 66 years on the throne. Her last visit was to Malta in 2014. Now, about to turn 92, she’s turned over those overseas duties to her family.


Those attending are:

  • The Queen
  • Prince Charles
  • Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
  • Prince William
  • Kate, Duchess of Cambridge
  • Prince Harry
  • Meghan Markle
  • Prince Andrew
  • Sophie, Countess of Wessex
  • Princess Anne
  • Duchess of Gloucester
  • Princess Alexandra

Perhaps the most scrutiny was on Meghan Markle, who is taking part in her first major royal event with Queen Elizabeth II, in advance of her marriage to Prince Harry on May 19. Wearing a simple ivory coat and hat (indeed, all major royal women wore variations of ivory or navy), she looked nervous and confident at the same time, sitting with Harry just behind the Queen during the service.

And yes, as this video shows, she does indeed know the words to “God Save the Queen.”


In Westminster Abbey, packed with more than 700 children, they took part in a service that was a celebration of the Commonwealth, in song and word. As Dr. Andrew Bastawrous, founder of Peek Vision, explained, the Commonwealth is an example to the world of “what is possible when we unite around one cause. ” And right now that cause is eliminating preventable blindness, which destroys the lives of millions who can’t access treatment. So Peek Vision has developed smartphone apps that enable non-medical workers to diagnose such illnesses cheaply, allowing more people to be treated. And the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, founded in 2012 by Commonwealth nations, is spearheading the goal of eliminating the main causes of preventable blindness (in particular, blinding trachoma, diabetic retinopathy, and retinopathy of prematurity) throughout the 53 nations and the world. Here is Bastawrous’s speech, courtesy the Royal Family’s Twitter feed and the BBC.


The last prayer, given by Archbishop Angaelos, representing the Coptic Orthodox Church, ended with “As we gather to pray for the shared vision of our diverse family, we thank you for our Commonwealth under the faithful stewardship of Her Majesty the Queen. May she, the Royal Family, and all who share in this responsibility, be guided by you, and be rewarded for their steadfastness and commitment. Amen.”

“The Crown has become the mysterious link, indeed I may say the magic link, which unites our loosely bound, but strongly interwoven Commonwealth of nations, states, and races,” said Winston Churchill in his eulogy to King George VI in 1952. That’s what the Queen has always wanted, and what her royal family are now entrusted to carry forward.