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Commonwealth leaders in secretive talks over who will replace the Queen

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Commonwealth leaders have begun secretive talks to consider who might succeed the Queen as its head when she dies, according to reports. The meetings are believed to be hugely sensitive because the role is not hereditary.

While Prince Charles is likely to become king on the death of his mother, he will not automatically become the head of the Commonwealth.

A “high-level group” of Commonwealth officials are set to meet in London on Tuesday before reporting their conclusions later this year. The agenda for the all-day summit, seen by the BBC, says there will be a discussion of “wider governance considerations,” which insiders say is code for the succession.

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A senior source told the state broadcaster: “I imagine the question of the succession, however distasteful it may naturally be, will come up.”

The Queen turns 92 in April. She was proclaimed head of the Commonwealth at her coronation when she became head of state in seven of its eight members. Today it has 53 members, mostly former constituents of the British Empire.

It is not a hereditary position, so will not pass automatically to the Prince of Wales when the monarch dies. Charles will be head of state in just 15 of the 53 nations and territories that make up the Commonwealth.

Any decision about the future would have to be made by the Commonwealth heads of government at the time of the Queen’s death, but there is no formal process for choosing her successor.

While many Commonwealth figures presume there will be no realistic alternative to Charles, there has in the past been talk of electing a ceremonial leader to improve the organization’s democratic credentials.

The high-level group consists of Chairman Anote Tong, former president of Kiribati, Lord Howell, former British energy secretary, and Louise Frechette, former United Nations deputy secretary general.

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