Queen to host CHOGM opening ceremony in Palace ballroom

The Queen and the royal family will roll out the red carpet for Commonwealth leaders next week.

The monarch is hosting the formal opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in the Ballroom of Buckingham Palace on Thursday April 19.

The Buckingham Palace ballroom where the CHOGM opening ceremony will take place (Yui Mok/PA)
The Buckingham Palace ballroom where the CHOGM opening ceremony will take place (Yui Mok/PA)

The Windsors will be out in force, with the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke of York, the Princess Royal, the Countess of Wessex, the Duke of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and Princess Alexandra attending the ceremony.

The pregnant Duchess of Cambridge is on maternity leave, and by the time CHOGM begins could be expecting to welcome the arrival of her third child any day.

Harry's bride-to-be Meghan Markle is not mentioned in the plans released by the royal household.

The opening ceremony falls exactly a month before the American star marries Harry in Windsor on May 19.

The Duke of Edinburgh, who retired last year from official duties, remains in hospital, a week after his replacement hip operation.

The Queen, who is head of the Commonwealth, will give a speech and officially declare CHOGM open at the palace.

Future king Charles, who does not automatically inherit the head of Commonwealth role when he becomes monarch, will give words of welcome to guests including heads of government, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, high commissioners, foreign ministers and faith leaders.

The Prince of Wales, who is on a tour of Australia, will deliver words of welcome at the CHOGM opening ceremony (Steve Parsons/PA)
The Prince of Wales, who is on a tour of Australia, will deliver words of welcome at the CHOGM opening ceremony (Steve Parsons/PA)

A guard of honour, a regimental band, a corps of drums and Commonwealth flag bearers will welcome leaders to the royal residence in London, with singer Emeli Sande performing the National Anthem, and gun salutes being fired in Green Park in celebration.

The ceremony will reflect the 2018 CHOGM theme Towards A Common Future with a focus on youth, and feature cultural performances

ONE week to go until #CHOGM2018!

Looking forward to leaders from across #ourCommonwealth gathering in the UK to agree action on global challenges & deliver a more prosperous, secure, sustainable & fair future for all. pic.twitter.com/RSj2JAJ3wd

-- CHOGM London 2018 (@Commonwealth18) April 9, 2018

Prime Minister Theresa May will give a speech, as will the Commonwealth Secretary-General and the Prime Minister of Malta, as the outgoing Commonwealth Chair-in-Office.

In keeping with the CHOGM tradition, the ceremony will end with a photograph of the Commonwealth family.

The guard of honour, military band and flag bearers will also process from the palace forecourt down The Mall to take up position in Friary Court at St James's Palace, with music and dance performances taking place nearby for the public to see.

Buckingham Palace said: "The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, looks forward to welcoming the Commonwealth leaders into Her Majesty's homes in London and Windsor.

"The Queen and the royal family have a deep affection for, and enduring belief in the Commonwealth, its values, and what binds it together as a global network of 53 countries."

Following the opening ceremony, the Queen and Charles will host the traditional lunchtime reception for new Heads of Government in the palace's 1844 Room.

The Queen's Dinner will be held in the evening at the palace, hosted by the monarch, joined by the royal family.

The royals will also attend forums throughout the week, reflecting their areas of interest.

Harry will be at the Youth Cabinet Roundtable and opening session of the Commonwealth Youth Forum at the QEII Conference Centre in London on Monday April 16, and a Youth Forum reception on Wednesday April 18.

William will go to the Welcome To The UK Reception at the QEII Conference Centre on Monday evening, and also a joint session of the Commonwealth Business and Youth Forums on Tuesday April 17.

As well as attending other events, Charles is giving the keynote address at the Malaria No More Summit on Wednesday April 18 and the Duchess of Cornwall will be at the closing session of Women's Forum on the same day.

On Friday April 20, the Leaders' Retreat will be held at Windsor Castle, marking the formal end of CHOGM.

On Saturday April 21, the Queen and the royals will celebrate the monarch's 92nd birthday with a special concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

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