UK

Harry and Meghan attend Commonwealth Day service

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex attend the Commonwealth Service on Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey Image copyright Getty Images

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have joined the Queen for a Westminster Abbey service to mark Commonwealth Day.

The royals and senior figures from national life marked the 70th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth.

The theme of this year's event was A Connected Commonwealth, with member countries being urged to protect natural resources and the environment.

In her message, the Queen said the Commonwealth vision "inspires us to find ways of protecting our planet".

Earlier Prince Harry and Meghan visited the Canadian embassy as part of Commonwealth Day celebrations.

The multicultural, multi-faith event at Westminster Abbey saw performances and readings from representatives from throughout the Commonwealth.

Grammy-winning group, Clean Bandit were the first to perform, followed by performances of North Indian dhol drumming, and a solo by an Australian aboriginal musician on a didgeridoo.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Queen says the impact of the goodwill generated by the Commonwealth is "very real"

The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke of York also attended the service.

The Prime Minister Theresa May was in the 2,000-strong congregation, as well as Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Scotland, high commissioners, ambassadors, faith leaders, plus more than 800 schoolchildren and young people.

Cold-water swimmer, Lewis Pugh spoke at the ceremony to appeal for greater efforts to restore the health of the oceans.

Earlier, Prince Harry and Meghan kicked off the celebrations at an event at Canada House, to showcase Canadian talent in the UK.

The couple were welcomed to the embassy by Canada's High Commissioner to the UK, Janice Charette.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived for the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Prime Minister Theresa May made time on a busy day to attend the service

Ms Charette said: "We kind of claim them a little bit as Canadians... One of their first outings as a couple was actually at the Invictus Games in Toronto, so we like to think of them as having come home here to Canada House."

The royal couple visited Commonwealth countries for their first oversees tour last year.

Since 1977, Commonwealth day has been celebrated annually on the second Monday in March.

The 53 Commonwealth countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Americas, the Pacific and Europe, marked the day with a range of activities, such as faith and civic gatherings, school assemblies, flag raising ceremonies, street parties and cultural events.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Last year the Queen announced the Prince of Wales will become the next Head of the Commonwealth
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Prince Harry and Meghan celebrated Commonwealth day with young people at Canada House before the Westminster service.

In her Commonwealth message, the Queen said the Commonwealth vision "offers hope, and inspires us to find ways of protecting our planet, and our people.

"We are able to look to the future with greater confidence and optimism as a result of the links that we share, and thanks to the networks of co-operation and mutual support to which we contribute, and on which we draw.

"With enduring commitment through times of great change, successive generations have demonstrated that whilst the goodwill for which the Commonwealth is renowned may be intangible, its impact is very real."

The Queen famously dedicated herself to the empire, which later became the Commonwealth, on her 21st birthday in 1947.

The then Princess Elizabeth said: "I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family, to which we all belong."

More on this story