As expected, the 2021 Commonwealth Day celebration was unique and heart-winning. Westminster Abbey and BBC One recorded a special program ‘A Celebration For Commonwealth Day’ that has appearances from The Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the Countess of Wessex. As Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty traditionally attends the annual Commonwealth Day service, which has been held at the Abbey every March since 1972. But this year it was different.
Her Majesty The Queen sent her annual Commonwealth Day message from Windsor Castle. In her message, Queen Elizabeth II talked about the importance of “friendship” and the “spirit of unity” during “testing times”. The Queen hails the frontline Workers who have been working hard since the beginning of the pandemic and paid tribute to the way in which communities across the family of nations have come together in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
We have an opportunity to reflect on a time like no other – Queen Elizabeth II
The service includes performances representing various faiths, nations, communities that are part of the Commonwealth. The special program was hosted by BBC presenter Anita Rani at Westminster Abbey. At the beginning of the program, Abbey’s Special Service Choir sings Charles Wood’s joyful Haec Dies (This is the Day) among the flags of the 54 Commonwealth nations in the nave.
After the Queen’s message came a dynamic fusion. Rhys Edward from Dominica carries the Commonwealth flag through the Abbey as North Indian drumming group the Dhol Foundation and the ACM Gospel Choir sang the Bob Marley songs Three Little Birds and One Love. Watch the full service below on the BBC Youtube channel.
The Commonwealth represents a global network of 54 countries and a vast community that spans every geographical region, religion, and culture, embracing diversity amongst its population of 2.4 billion people. The Commonwealth theme for 2021 is ‘Delivering A Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming’, celebrating the Commonwealth countries’ united efforts to achieve their common goals, including protecting natural resources, boosting trade, and delivering a peaceful, prosperous, and more sustainable future for all.
The Prince of Wales gave a reflection celebrating the critical work being carried out by nations across the Commonwealth to combat climate change and protect unique landscapes, marine environments, and biodiversity. In his message Prince Charles said, “The coronavirus pandemic has affected every country of the Commonwealth, cruelly robbing countless people of their lives and livelihoods, disrupting our societies, and denying us the human connections which we so dearly cherish. Amidst such heart-breaking suffering, however, the extraordinary determination, courage, and creativity with which people have responded have been an inspiration to us all. This pandemic has shown us the true nature of a global emergency. We have learned that human health, economic health, and planetary health are fundamentally interconnected and that pandemics, climate change, and biodiversity loss are existential threats that know no borders“.
After a soulful and hearty performance of Sunset from Award-winning musician and composer Nitin Sawhney in Abbey’s nave, The Duchess of Cornwall spoke to the broadcaster Clare Balding at Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner about the topic she is really passionate about – Books.
They talked about the importance of books and reading for children across the commonwealth, especially in a year of isolation and disrupted education. They were joined by award-winning teacher Ranjitsinh Disale to discuss the importance of reading to children across the Commonwealth, especially over this last year of disrupted education via a video link from India. The Duchess said, “I’ve always had a passion for books. Books have been part of my life for so long. I started reading when I was very very young with a father who has a fervent bibliophile.“So from the age of two or three, he used to sit and read to us children, take us on wonderful adventures… all over the world. I think I was bitten at that age and from then I’ve just kept going, and I’ve got involved in a lot of literacy programs and patronages. I just feel very strongly that all children should be taught to read”.
South London poet and spoken word artist James Massiah presented a reading of his piece Wide-Eyes followed by Graduates of the New Zealand Youth Choir singing Maori greeting Kua Rongo in the Abbey, with the performance continued by members of the choir at home in New Zealand.
The Countess of Wessex, Sophie, marked Commonwealth Day along with International Women’s Day with a call to three women around the commonwealth to hear about their experiences of supporting other women and wider communities. The Countess of Wessex and broadcaster June Sarpong have spoken to Virginia Khunguni in Malawi and Caitlin Figueiredo in Australia. Talking to ladies, The countess said: “There can become a bit of fatigue when it comes to talking about women’s rights, women’s issues, and everything. And so I’m quite keen to try and move the discussion into a place where it becomes a much more level playing field because it is a win, win – it’s not one against the other.“
With countries across the Commonwealth affected by a coronavirus, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have spoken to inspirational figures from South Africa, Bangladesh, and Malaysia who have been caring for their communities during the pandemic. The Duke and Duchess heard from those on the calls about what inspired them to support their communities, the impact of the vital work they are carrying out, and how they have adapted their efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During a video called that the royal couple made from The Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, Prince William, and Duchess Catherine talked to Dr. Zolelwa Sifumba, from South Africa, an advocate for the rights of healthcare workers on the front line. Talking to Dr. Sifumba, The Duchess of Cambridge said,
Here in the UK, there’s been masses of public recognition of the amazing work the front line is doing and it’s sad, almost, that it’s taken the pandemic for the public to really back and support all those working on the front line.
The Duke of Cambridge said, “We, Catherine and I, have spoken to a lot of healthcare workers in the UK and around the world over the last year – we hear your worries and your concerns, and thank you for your time chatting to us about it”. William and Catherine also talked to Dr. Faysal from Bangladesh who runs a mini ambulance service called ‘Safe Wheel‘ for the rural areas in Bangladesh. Next, The Royal Couple talked to, Heidy, the Founder of a Malaysian charity ‘Refuge for Refugees‘.
For the video, The Duchess of Cambridge brought back her Emilia Wickstead Kate Dress in Blue. A sartorial node to Commonwealth that is represented with Blue color.
Catherine first wore the dress in November 2019 at the launch of the National Emergencies Trust in London.
She topped her dress with a matching Emilia Wickstead Rectangular Buckle Woven Belt.
The Duchess of Cambridge paired the dress with a pair of pearl hoops that are still unidentified.
I believe the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are already back in London by now. From tomorrow, the schools in the UK are re-opening so Prince George and Princess Charlotte will be back in school and we might hear something about Prince Louis starting nursery soon.