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The Queen's inclusion of the heir to the throne in the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting, to be held in Uganda this November, is considered a key move towards his eventual role as head of state
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Charles takes a step towards throne with Queen's invitation

6 APRIL 2007

In a move widely seen as preparing him for his eventual role as King, it has been announced that Prince Charles will accompany the Queen to a meeting of Commonwealth leaders for the first time.

The Prince has never previously attended the bi-annual Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting, and his presence at this year's event - held in Uganda in November - is considered an important step forward. Although Charles will not be present at the opening ceremony, presided over by the Queen, he will be attending various forums during the three-day meeting and act in a supporting role to the monarch.

"This will provide the Prince of Wales with an opportunity to consolidate and develop further the diplomatic and charitable work of his many official visits to Commonwealth countries," a Clarence House spokeswoman explained. The Prince has visited more than 30 Commonwealth countries, while his mother has toured all 53 member states - except Cameroon, which joined in 1995.

It is extremely unusual for the Queen and Prince Charles to undertake foreign engagements in the same country. The last time they travelled together was 33 years ago, when they attended the 1974 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand.

Buckingham Palace stressed that the Queen, who celebrates her 81st birthday later this month, has no plans to cut back on her official engagements, however.

Constitutional expert and barrister Hugo Charlton explained: "This really is most unusual and we certainly havenít had any hint of it coming. The Commonwealth is very important to the Queen, and for her to share it with Prince Charles in this way is particularly significant. But I suppose that the Queen realises that time waits for no man, nor woman, and she realises that Charles has to meet these people at some point."

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