Queen Elizabeth's decision to ask Prince Charles to represent her at the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka in November will have been made reluctantly.
As Head of the Commonwealth she has been present at every meeting since the Ottawa summit in 1973 and she knows personally many of the leaders of the 54 Commonwealth countries. Speculation on whether this decision represents the start of a new phase in Prince Charles's responsibilities is unnecessary and inappropriate.

However, the November meeting may be an awkward occasion for Prince Charles since there is considerable opposition to the choice of Sri Lanka as host and of its President Mahinda Rajapaksa as chairman. Serious accusations have been made of extreme brutality and abuse of human rights by government forces against Tamil Tiger military and civilians in the final stages of the 23-year-long civil war in 2009. Independent inquiries, including one by Amnesty International, are investigating allegations that would embarrass President Rajapaksa if they were found be justified. Canada has said it will probably boycott the summit unless the facts are properly established and David Cameron has been under pressure to take a similar line. The Commonwealth has generally succeeded in preventing issues of this kind from affecting its informal unity but with the accused country also the host it may be difficult in this instance to avoid what would be the Commonwealth's first rupture.