The celebrations were hosted by Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma at Marlborough House - the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters - in London, UK.
The evening commemorated the Commonwealth Day theme ‘Connecting Cultures’ - observed throughout 2012 - which celebrates the diversity of the Commonwealth and its role in bringing together many different peoples on the basis of shared visions and values.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were joined by Australian Senator Jan McLucas, representing Prime Minister of Australia and Commonwealth Chair-in-Office, Julia Gillard; Sir John Major, former British Prime Minister and Chair of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust (QEDJT); South African musician Hugh Masekela; and multiple prize-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Mr Masekela – universally considered one of jazz’s greatest horn players - spoke about the power of music to cross borders and bridge cultural divides.
“I do not think there is any better international language than music,” he said. “It’s an amazing language, it just grabs the whole world, and I think in many places it has inspired people to examine their sociopolitical status.”
Commonwealth Day also marked the start of the Commonwealth's celebrations for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee – marking her 60 years as UK monarch and Head of the Commonwealth.
At the reception, the Queen met, among others, members of the QEDJT, the Commonwealth Working Group for the Diamond Jubilee, high commissioners, and Commonwealth Secretariat staff.
Sir John said it was a great honour to be asked to chair the QEDJT, which will fund pan-Commonwealth initiatives.
He added that by focusing on the Commonwealth, the trust is reflecting the Queen’s affinity and closeness to the association shown throughout her 60 year reign.
“The Commonwealth is a hugely valuable institution. It brings together big and small nations who meet on equal terms at regular intervals and I think that’s a good model for what the world should be doing.
“The more we celebrate the Commonwealth, the closer it can become.”
Dominican born Baroness Patricia Scotland QC said: “I think the Commonwealth is such a strong institution and we need to do everything we can to strengthen it. It's good to be able to celebrate together, to learn from each other and to grow.”
Earlier that day, the Queen attended the Commonwealth Day Observance at Westminster Abbey in London, UK, where singer Laura Wright, performed ‘Stronger as One’, written to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and focusing on the Commonwealth.
At the Marlborough House reception Ms Wright said of the song: “I just think it’s fantastic for everyone involved and singing it and performing today for the first time in Westminster Abbey for the Queen was such a beautiful occasion.”