- Queen Elizabeth II served as the head of the Commonwealth until her death Thursday.
- The Commonwealth was formed in 1926 and is one of the largest political associations in the world.
- There are 56 countries on six continents that make up the Commonwealth.
On top of her role leading the British royal family for more than seven decades, Queen Elizabeth II was an important figure in several other countries as the head of the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth, formerly known as the British Commonwealth, has origins that date back centuries, but the current version goes back nearly 100 years. The association had been under the jurisdiction of the queen for most of its existence, and while King Charles III’s reign has begun, it doesn’t mean he will be head of the Commonwealth.
Here’s what to know about the Commonwealth:
What is the Commonwealth?
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of countries around the world that were once part of the British Empire.
The goal of the association, according to its website, is to “support member governments, and partner with the broader Commonwealth family and others, to improve the well-being of all Commonwealth citizens and to advance their shared interests globally.”
When was the Commonwealth formed?
The association was formed in 1926 as part of the Balfour Declaration of 1926 and is one of the oldest political organizations in the world. It predates the United Nations and NATO.
The goal of the declaration was to form a union in which all countries once under British rule were treated equally, with all countries pledging allegiance to the British king or queen.
What countries are part of the Commonwealth?
There are 56 countries in the association, and one can be found on each continent except Antarctica. There are:
- 21 African countries.
- 13 Caribbean and American countries.
- 11 Pacific Island countries.
- Eight Asian countries.
- Three European countries.
The countries include Canada, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand. The full list of countries can be found here.
The smallest member is the Pacific nation of Nauru, population 10,000; The largest is India, population 1.4 billion. In total, there are 2.5 billion people in the Commonwealth.
Who is now head of the Commonwealth?
It makes sense to think Charles is now head of the Commonwealth, but technically he isn’t – yet. The head of the Commonwealth is not determined by family lineage. It must be chosen by Commonwealth leaders.
What did the Commonwealth say about Queen Elizabeth II’s death?
The Commonwealth said “a great light has gone out” in announcing her death.
“Her Majesty loved the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth loved her,” Patricia Scotland QC, secretary-general of the Commonwealth, said in a statement.
The association said the queen fulfilled the promise she gave in 1947 of dedicating her service to the Commonwealth. She visited every country in the association and missed only one Heads of Government Meeting from 1971 to 2018.
“I will miss her greatly, the Commonwealth will miss her greatly, and the world will miss her greatly. We will never see her like again,” Scotland said. “Hers was a life of service which will echo through the ages. We will be forever grateful.”
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