Head of the Commonwealth
The Head of the Commonwealth heads the Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

, an intergovernmental organisation which currently comprises 54 sovereign state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

s. The position is currently occupied by the individual who serves as monarch of each of the Commonwealth realm
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

s, but has no day-to-day involvement in the governance of those countries, or any other Commonwealth of Nations member state. The first Head of the Commonwealth was King George VI
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

, who was succeeded by the second and current Head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II. The office is personal to Queen Elizabeth II and there is no agreement concerning whether the office will pass to her heir along with her other offices.


The title was devised in 1949 but was not added to the monarch's style until 1953. In that year, a Royal Style and Titles Act
Royal Style and Titles Act
In the Commonwealth realms, a Royal Style and Titles Act is passed in order to declare the Sovereign's formal title.The most significant of these Acts is the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927, which was passed in the United Kingdom in recognition of the creation of the Irish Free State, a...

 was passed separately in each of the seven Commonwealth realms then existing (except Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

), which gave formal recognition to the separateness and the equality of the realms by entitling the Queen as Queen of [Realm] and her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.

Use in different languages

Language Title Used in
Afrikaans is a West Germanic language, spoken natively in South Africa and Namibia. It is a daughter language of Dutch, originating in its 17th century dialects, collectively referred to as Cape Dutch .Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch; see , , , , , .Afrikaans was historically called Cape...

Hoof van die Statebond (lit. Head of the Confederation) South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

英聯邦元首 Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 (part of the Commonwealth until 1997)
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

Chef du Commonwealth Cameroon
Cameroon, officially the Republic of Cameroon , is a country in west Central Africa. It is bordered by Nigeria to the west; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo to the south. Cameroon's coastline lies on the...

, Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Seychelles
Seychelles , officially the Republic of Seychelles , is an island country spanning an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, some east of mainland Africa, northeast of the island of Madagascar....

, Vanuatu
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

, United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 Crown Dependencies of Jersey
Jersey, officially the Bailiwick of Jersey is a British Crown Dependency off the coast of Normandy, France. As well as the island of Jersey itself, the bailiwick includes two groups of small islands that are no longer permanently inhabited, the Minquiers and Écréhous, and the Pierres de Lecq and...

 and Guernsey
Guernsey, officially the Bailiwick of Guernsey is a British Crown dependency in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy.The Bailiwick, as a governing entity, embraces not only all 10 parishes on the Island of Guernsey, but also the islands of Herm, Jethou, Burhou, and Lihou and their islet...

Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

Consortionis Populorum Princeps Various (as secondary title)
Malay language
Malay is a major language of the Austronesian family. It is the official language of Malaysia , Indonesia , Brunei and Singapore...

Ketua Komanwel Brunei
Brunei , officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace , is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia...

, Malaysia, Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

Maltese language
Maltese is the national language of Malta, and a co-official language of the country alongside English,while also serving as an official language of the European Union, the only Semitic language so distinguished. Maltese is descended from Siculo-Arabic...

Kap tal-Commonwealth Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

Maori language
Māori or te reo Māori , commonly te reo , is the language of the indigenous population of New Zealand, the Māori. It has the status of an official language in New Zealand...

Upoko o Nga Herenga ki Ingarangi (lit. Leader of the links with England) New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

Chefe da Commonwealth Mozambique
Mozambique, officially the Republic of Mozambique , is a country in southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest...


The role of the Head of the Commonwealth is recognised by its members as the "symbol of their free association" and is akin to that of a ceremonial president, but for life: unlike a chairman or secretary general of any other international organisation, the Head of the Commonwealth is a symbol of the association, playing a very important role in shaping the Commonwealth. Elizabeth II serves as a leader
A leader is one who influences or leads others.Leader may also refer to:- Newspapers :* Leading article, a piece of writing intended to promote an opinion, also called an editorial* The Leader , published 1909–1967...

, with assistants that play key roles like the Commonwealth Secretary-General
Commonwealth Secretary-General
The Commonwealth Secretary-General is the head of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the central body which has served the Commonwealth of Nations since its establishment in 1965, and responsible for representing the Commonwealth publicly...

 (currently Kamalesh Sharma
Kamalesh Sharma
H.E Kamalesh Sharma is the current Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations from 2008, having previously served as the High Commissioner for India in London....

) and Commonwealth Chairperson-in-Office
Commonwealth Chairperson-in-Office
The Commonwealth Chairperson-in-Office is the Chairperson-in-Office of the Commonwealth of Nations, and is one of the main leadership positions in the Commonwealth...

 (currently Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Kamla Persad-Bissessar is the Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the seventh person to hold this position...


The Head of the Commonwealth attends the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, , is a biennial summit meeting of the heads of government from all Commonwealth nations. Every two years the meeting is held in a different member state, and is chaired by that nation's respective Prime Minister or President, who becomes the...

 (CHOGM) summits, held at locations throughout the Commonwealth, and has a series of private meetings with the Commonwealth countries' leaders, attends a CHOGM reception and dinner, and makes a speech there. The Queen or a representative (such as Prince Charles, Prince of Wales
Charles, Prince of Wales
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales is the heir apparent and eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Since 1958 his major title has been His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. In Scotland he is additionally known as The Duke of Rothesay...

) is also present at the quadrennial Commonwealth Games
Commonwealth Games
The Commonwealth Games is an international, multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations. The event was first held in 1930 and takes place every four years....

 and on every Commonwealth Day
Commonwealth Day
Commonwealth Day is the annual celebration of the Commonwealth of Nations held on the second Monday in March, and marked by a multi-faith service in Westminster Abbey, normally attended by HM Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth, with the Commonwealth Secretary-General and Commonwealth High...

, the second Monday in March, broadcasts a message to all member countries.


The London Declaration
London Declaration
The London Declaration was a declaration issued by the governments of the Commonwealth of Nations on the issue of India's continued membership of the Commonwealth. It was made in London on 28 April 1949, and marked the birth of the modern Commonwealth. The declaration had two main provisions...

 of 1949, devised by Canadian prime minister
Prime Minister of Canada
The Prime Minister of Canada is the primary minister of the Crown, chairman of the Cabinet, and thus head of government for Canada, charged with advising the Canadian monarch or viceroy on the exercise of the executive powers vested in them by the constitution...

 Louis St. Laurent
Louis St. Laurent
Louis Stephen St. Laurent, PC, CC, QC , was the 12th Prime Minister of Canada from 15 November 1948, to 21 June 1957....

, states that the monarch, as a symbol of the free association of independent countries, is the Head of the Commonwealth. Republicsand kingdoms that are not Commonwealth realmscan recognise the monarch as Head of the Commonwealth without accepting the person as the country's head of state. When India
History of the Republic of India
The history of the Republic of India began on 26 January 1950. The country became an independent dominion within the British Commonwealth 15 August 1947. George VI was King until the Republic was proclaimed in 1950. Concurrently the Muslim-majority northwest and east of British India was separated...

 adopted a republican constitution
Constitution of India
The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions, and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens...

 on 26 January 1950, it recognised George VI as the symbol of the association but no longer as India's head of state.

Elizabeth II became Head of the Commonwealth when she ascended to the throne in 1952. On her accession she announced, "The Commonwealth bears no resemblance to the empires of the past. It is an entirely new conception built on the highest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty, and the desire for freedom and peace."

In December 1960, the Queen had a personal flag
Personal Flag of Queen Elizabeth II
The Personal Flag of Queen Elizabeth II is used in Commonwealth of Nations countries which are not Commonwealth Realms. The flag was created in 1960 and first used in 1961 for the Queen's visit to India..-Description:...

 created to symbolise her as Head of the Commonwealth and not associated with her role as queen of any particular country. Over time, the flag has replaced the British Royal Standard when the Queen visits Commonwealth countries where she is not head of state and on Commonwealth occasions in the United Kingdom. When the Queen visits the headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat
Commonwealth Secretariat
The Commonwealth Secretariat is the main intergovernmental agency and central institution of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is responsible for facilitating cooperation between members; organising meetings, including the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings ; assisting and advising on policy...

 in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, this personal standardnot any of her royal standardsis raised.

List of Heads of the Commonwealth

Name Portrait Birth Death Start End
George VI
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

14 December 1895 6 February 1952 28 April 1949 6 February 1952
Elizabeth II 21 April 1926 Living 6 February 1952 Incumbent

See also

  • List of titles and honours of King George VI
  • List of titles and honours of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Commonwealth realm
    Commonwealth Realm
    A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

  • Republics in the Commonwealth of Nations
  • Timeline of Commonwealth of Nations history
    Timeline of Commonwealth of Nations history


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