Parliament SquareParliament Square facing Westminster Abbey on Commonwealth Day 2020.

The 2021 Commonwealth Day Service has been cancelled. The announcement was made by Westminster Abbey, the Royal Commonwealth Society and the Commonwealth Secretariat on 22 February. The service at the Abbey, the reception at the Commonwealth Secretariat and other special events associated with Commonwealth Day, originally scheduled for 8 March, will be replaced by a special programme on the BBC’s main channel, BBC One, on 7 March.

The programme, ‘A Celebration for Commonwealth Day’, will include the Queen’s annual message and messages from other senior members of the royal family talking about the importance of Commonwealth links.

The BBC One programme will be presented from Westminster Abbey with musical performances and readings from athletes, celebrities and performers. It will also include prayers from the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, and faith leaders from around the Commonwealth.

Dr Hoyle said: “The Commonwealth Service is one of the Abbey’s most important annual services, but as it is not possible to gather here, we have seized the chance to take the celebration well beyond these walls. We are so pleased that this rich and vibrant BBC programme with the Royal Family and the Abbey at its heart will celebrate our global connections at a time when we are all so physically isolated.”

UK/ US coverage

The media in the UK and the United States were quick to point out that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, while missing from the UK programme, will be on air hours later in a pre-scheduled interview with American talk show host, Oprah Winfrey.

Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, had stepped down from royal duties after taking part in last year’s Commonwealth Day activities.  In what the Daily Telegraph newspaper described as a “timetable coincidence”, it said that the 7 March Oprah interview, entitled The intimate conversation – Oprah With Meghan And Harry: A CBS Primetime Special, has set off a scramble for TV rights in the UK.  The paper said that the couple would be talking about their move to the US and their future plans.

A virtual Commonwealth Week

The Commonwealth Day Service has been held at Westminster Abbey since 1972.

Dr Linda Yueh, Chair of the Royal Commonwealth Society, said: “It is the privilege of the Society to organise the annual Commonwealth Service, which celebrates our wonderfully diverse Commonwealth family but, like many organisations, we will be marking Commonwealth Day a little differently this year. On this occasion, and to also mark International Women’s Day, we invite guests to join our virtual conversation with Society Ambassador, and previous contributor to the Commonwealth Service, Alexandra Burke.”

This year’s Commonwealth theme is Delivering a common future. The Commonwealth Secretariat said that other virtual events around Commonwealth Day would include a discussion on 5 March entitled Sea the She: Recognizing women’s contributions to ocean science and an 8 March event for International Women’s Day on Women’s leadership in building back better after COVID-19. The 2021 Commonwealth Youth Awards ceremony will take place on 10 March.

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Westminster Abbey – Commonwealth Day information
Commonwealth week schedule from the Commonwealth Secretariat
Commonwealth Day 2020
From the archives: Commonwealth Day
Does Commonwealth Day matter? – From 2016