Commonwealth Connections

Westminster Abbey, as a royal church, celebrates the Commonwealth all year round, including at a special service in March. Either in person or virtually, we welcome schools from across the Commonwealth to join one our sessions, led by experienced learning officers who can bringing learning to life, in line with your programmes of study.

Photograph of flags being processed within Westminster Abbey at a Commonwealth service

What is the Commonwealth?

The Commonwealth is a voluntary family of nations spanning across five continents. Formally established in 1949, its origins were in Britain's former Empire. Today, the Commonwealth acknowledges that all member states are free and equal. An association of 56 member states, it has a combined population of 2.5 billion citizens - almost a third of the world's population.

How is the Commonwealth connected to the Abbey?

Since 1972, Westminster Abbey has celebrated the Commonwealth with the annual Commonwealth Service. Broadcast worldwide, the service is traditionally attended by the monarch and other members of the Royal Family, along with 2,000 people in the congregation, and showcases musical performances, dancing, and inspirational speeches.


Photograph of Canada Club Chairs in the Shrine at Westminster Abbey

Canada first joined the Commonwealth in 1931, playing an important role in the evolution of the modern Commonwealth in 1949.

As one of the four original member states of the Commonwealth, Canada has its own permanent place in the quire. Alongside the Republic of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, there is always a place for the High Commissioner to sit at our biggest services.

In 1949, the Canada Club gifted Westminster Abbey two chairs and faldstools in memory of Canadian soldiers who fell in World War II. Used by members of the Royal Family for our most important services, they are kept safe in the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor.

This is a pilot project for schools in the Commonwealth, starting with Canada.

Book your Commonwealth session

Online: Commonwealth Connections - Canada

Discover the links that highlight the enduring relationship and shared heritage between Canada and the UK within the framework of the Commonwealth. Explore our shared Commonwealth connections and the ways they are remembered and celebrated at Westminster Abbey through ceremonies, artefacts, and traditions.

Suitable for: Grade 1 to Grade 12

Duration: Flexible but typically 60 minutes

Cost: Free for 2024

Close-up photograph of flag bearer carrying a flag during a Commonwealth service at Westminster Abbey

Virtual session

In-person: Commonwealth Tour

Explore the origins and history of the Commonwealth, and how the story of this 100 year-old association of nations is closely intertwined with that of Westminster Abbey. Learn about the people, the stories, and the ideals of the Commonwealth as your guide leads you through this ancient, royal church.

Suitable for: Grade 1 to Grade 12

Duration: 1.5 hours

Cost: £6

Photograph of Australia and Canada Choir Stalls in Westminster Abbey

Tour at Westminster Abbey

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