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By PEOPLE.COM/Erin Hill
Updated: Apr 23, 2018 @ 1:04 am

In a rare move, Queen Elizabeth publicly backed her son, Prince Charles, as the next Commonwealth leader.

On Thursday, the monarch, who turns 92 on Saturday, formally asked the Commonwealth Heads of Government to appoint Charles as her successor of the association of Britain and its former colonies. 

Queen Elizabeth has been the group’s symbolic figurehead since 1952. On Friday, leaders are expected to discuss who should follow her in the role. The position is not hereditary, but Prince Charles is expected to get the nod. (As the Queen’s firstborn, Charles is the hereditary heir to the British throne, which he will automatically inherit upon his mother’s death.)

“It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949,” the Queen said at the formal opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Buckingham Palace.

“By continuing to treasure and reinvigorate our associations and activities, I believe we will secure a safer, more prosperous and sustainable world for those who follow us: a world where the Commonwealth’s generosity of spirit can bring its gentle touch of healing and hope to all,” she continued.

The Queen welcomed leaders from the 53 Commonwealth nations to the palace for two days of discussions on topics such as trade, marine protection and cyber crime.

In his own opening remarks at the summit, Prince Charles said: “For my part, the Commonwealth has been a fundamental feature of my life for as long as I can remember, beginning with my first visit to Malta when I was just 5 years old.

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“And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, I pray that this Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will not only revitalize the bonds between our countries, but will also give the Commonwealth a renewed relevance to all citizens, finding practical solutions to their problems and giving life to their aspirations.

“By doing so, the Commonwealth can be a cornerstone for the lives of future generations, just as it has been for so many of us.”

Later today, the Queen and Prince Charles will host a lunch at Buckingham Palace for new heads of government. And this evening, Prince William and Prince Harry will arrive at the palace for a formal reception.

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