QUEEN Elizabeth II missed the Commonwealth Day service in London on Monday for the first time in two decades. The Queen has been recovering from the symptoms of gastroenteritis which had her admitted to hospital last week.
Commonwealth Day is the annual celebration of the 54-member Commonwealth of Nations. It is held on the second Monday in March, and marked by a multi-faith service in Westminster Abbey. Queen Elizabeth is head of state of 16 Commonwealth realms, including New Zealand.
The Queen’s 91-year-old husband Prince Philip represented her at the service, which was attended by Commonwealth ambassadors and High Commissioners from around the world and featured an address from Virgin tycoon Richard Branson.
The last time The Queen missed a Commonwealth Day Observance was in 1993, when she had the flu.
The Queen, 86, did attend the evening reception at the Commonwealth Foundation’s Marlborough House headquarters where she signed the new Commonwealth charter, a document that includes a focus on equality and opposition to all forms of discrimination in all Commonwealth nations.
“We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds,” the document reads.
It is seen as an important milestone for gay rights, although it is a sensitive issue as some member states still regard homosexuality as a criminal offence.
The 16-point charter aims to protect democracy, the rule of law, international security and free speech and was adopted by all nations in the group in December.
This year’s theme is Opportunity Through Enterprise which encourages young people to find and maximise innovative opportunities.
Buckingham Palace said the Queen hopes to attend other official engagements planned later this week.