Saturday 6th of May 2023 will be a big moment for the UK and for all Commonwealth countries like Sierra Leone as we mark the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III and Her Majesty Queen Consort.
World leaders from far and wide will be in London for the Coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey – the first since Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in June 1953. Televisions were still new and entire communities gathered to watch the ceremony in the homes of family and neighbours.
This year, I’ll be watching the ceremony live in Freetown with my colleagues and friends whilst millions around the globe tune in alongside me. You can follow the day’s events for yourself live on YouTube via the BBC News channel or on BBC Radio
The crowning of King Charles will be a celebration of a modern Commonwealth, firmly focussed on its future. At the last Coronation, we shared a Head of State. This Coronation comes a week after Sierra Leoneans celebrated over 60 years of independence. In the UK, the monarch as Head of State provides checks and balances to the elected Government. In Sierra Leone, you have a constitution. What endures between these moments is our deep friendship, as shown during the Foreign Secretary’s visit just two months ago.
Today, our Commonwealth family has over 2.5 billion people of different nationalities and religions. Most are young – with over 60% are under 30. His Majesty has already done a huge amount of work across the UK and the Commonwealth on causes dear to him – empowering young people, promoting tolerance and understanding between different faiths and communities, and protecting nature. King Charles has founded nearly 20 charities, the most famous of which is the Prince’s Trust which helps 11-to-30 year-olds who are unemployed or struggling at school to transform their lives.
The Commonwealth is not just about our values – it’s about collective action. As Head of the Commonwealth, King Charles wants to see even more benefits for all of its 56 states by involving youth in solving problems in society, deepening trade and investment partnerships, responding to the global threat of climate change and championing democracy. His Majesty also wants to inspire citizens around the world to get involved in putting these issues into action in their local communities.
So this weekend, staff from the British High Commission will be at Tacugama, working alongside the local Roots and Shoots youth group. Roots and Shoots are part of a global community founded by Britain’s renowned primate expert and old friend of Tacugama, Dr Jane Goodall. Their global community inspires and educates young people about protecting their environment.
Together we’ll be helping Tacugama’s vets to build equipment for the chimps to thrive and we’ll be preparing young trees for planting in a protected area of the Tacugama rainforest. Trees not only help us in fighting climate change; they also keep the ground beneath us stable in heavy rains and provide homes to Sierra Leone’s beautiful and varied wildlife.
These trees will be part of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy – an initiative to protect a collection of indigenous forests across the Commonwealth for future generations and share knowledge, including Tacugama and other parks across West Africa as well as the UK. Indeed, the Royal Family has taken a particular interest in Sierra Leone’s precious tropical rainforests. King Charles visited Sierra Leone in 2006 where he watched a play about the devasting impact of deforestation. His Majesty’s sister, Princess Anne, has also spent time in Sierra Leone – most recently in 2017 where she visited Tacugama soon after the creation of the Queen’s Canopy.
Last but not least, I’ll be planting a special tree at the High Commission Residence in honour of The King’s personal commitment to preserving, protecting and celebrating nature. This will also be a reminder to all friends of the UK in Sierra Leone of our close ties – both their roots in the past and their long future.
I hope you will all join me in wishing Their Majesties The King and The Queen Consort well as we embark on a new era – for the UK, for the Commonwealth and for the friendship of our two countries.