Commonwealth Day 2023

Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey

The Commonwealth of Nations is a political, international union of 54 independent sovereign states within Africa, the Caribbean, America, Asia, Europe and the Pacific Islands, that were predominantly former British colonies. It evolved over the course of the 20th century, after the demise of the British Empire and a rising nationalism in dominions, sparking a push for independence. The Commonwealth work together to promote a number of common values and goals such as democracy, human rights as well as strengthen governance and oversee the rule of law, with the reigning British monarch as its head of association, “united by a common allegiance to the Crown,” as of 1926 and was officially formed in 1949.

Commonwealth Day 2023 marks the tenth anniversary of the Commonwealth Charter, which was signed by Queen Elizabeth II on 11th March 2013. It is a well-established holiday celebrated by an estimated 2 billion people worldwide. It was originally known as ‘Empire Day,’ established in 1902 to honour Queen Victoria and later addressed reform in 1958 to become Commonwealth Day; observing the unity of nations and its ideals on being ‘free and equal’.

In today’s postcolonial world, there is much controversy over the morality of the Commonwealth. Some countries still deem it a significant part of their history and still refer to the Queen as their monarch, whilst others find it a reminder of brutal colonization- having once been prevented from gaining independence. Nonetheless, several countries within the Commonwealth celebrate this day as a public holiday, hosting parties/national festivals with raised flags and the accompaniment of signature foods. Many tune in on Commonwealth Day to watch the service at Westminster Abbey, attended by the new monarch King Charles III, as the new Head of the Commonwealth, following in the late Queen’s footsteps.

Each year, this day has a different theme, last year was, ‘delivering a common future: connecting innovating, transforming’. A Commonwealth flag for peace will be carried in the procession of Commonwealth members’ flags to mark 2023 as Commonwealth Year of Peace. The service will include guests of honour including the prime minister of Samoa, musical performances and a host of cultural events celebrating those in the Commonwealth.

Whilst there has been improvement of relations between the Commonwealth, one can’t help but think about what a world built around less oppressive power and more cooperative relationships could have looked like.

It is important to show solidarity with Commonwealth countries and their commitment to strive for a future based on freedom, tolerance and justice.

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