The Prince of Wales was unanimously endorsed as the next head of the Commonwealth by world leaders, Theresa May has said.
The move by Commonwealth prime ministers and presidents was welcomed by Mrs May who said it was “fitting” the heir to the throne should one day succeed his mother the Queen in the role.
Speaking at the end of a two-day Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm), hosted by the UK, the Prime Minister told a press conference: “His Royal Highness has been a proud supporter of the Commonwealth for more than four decades and has spoken passionately about the organisation’s unique diversity.
“It is fitting that one day he will continue the work of his mother, Her Majesty the Queen.”
The leaders announced their decision in a communique released after they had discussed a range of topics at their Windsor Castle retreat, where informal discussions were held without aides or advisers.
Charles said later he was moved by his endorsement by the leaders: “I am deeply touched and honoured by the decision of Commonwealth Heads of State and Government that I should succeed the Queen, in due course, as Head of the Commonwealth.
“Meanwhile, I will continue to support Her Majesty in every possible way, in the service of our unique family of nations.”
It followed a personal appeal from the Queen to the world leaders on Thursday, to choose her son for the role.
During the Chogm opening ceremony, she told them it was her “sincere wish” that the family of nations would one day decide the prince should carry on the Commonwealth work started by her father King George VI.
Nana Akufo-Addo, the president of Ghana, was asked during the press conference if there was a unanimous vote among the 53 member states for the prince to be the next Commonwealth head.
He said: “This was the decision of the meeting. You have to assume there was a strong consensus, that made it possible for that decision to be made.”
But Mrs May was more emphatic when asked the same question later, stating: “The view was unanimous that Prince Charles should be the next head of the Commonwealth.”
The decision brings to an end speculation about who would succeed the Queen which has dogged recent Chogms, and is another milestone in the subtle handover of responsibility from the Queen to the heir to the throne, even though it will happen in the future.
Lloyd Dorfman, chairman of the Prince’s Trust and Prince’s Trust International, welcomed the news that Charles is to become the next head of the Commonwealth.
He said: “At present, seven of the nine countries where we run programmes are in the Commonwealth including Australia, Barbados, Canada and India, so we are already supporting thousands of young people in Commonwealth countries.”
Mr Dorfman added: “As head of the Commonwealth, the prince will be able to amplify this work and bring to the table his extensive experience, wisdom and passion.”
During her press conference address Mrs May said that the Chogm summit had “demonstrated that the Commonwealth is united not only by a common history but by a common future – a future in which we work together for the benefit of all our citizens and for the wider world.”
The breadth of the Commonwealth offered “a unique perspective in helping to forge the global solutions we need”, she said.
“This week we have come together to reach a series of shared commitments that will help to build a more secure, more sustainable, more prosperous and fairer future for all.”
The Prime Minister hailed agreements at the London summit on issues ranging from opposition to the use of chemical weapons to reducing plastic pollution and boosting trade.
The 53 member states had unanimously agreed to fight protectionism as part of an effort to expand intra-Commonwealth trade to 2 trillion US dollars (£1.4trn) by 2030, she said.
They pledged to halve malaria in Commonwealth countries by 2023 and agreed that all boys and girls should receive at least 12 years of education by 2030.