Everything We Know About Patricia Scotland, Secretary-General Of The Commonwealth

The death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022 left many people around the world with questions about the structure of the British government, its rites of succession, and other related matters. After all, Elizabeth had been queen for over 70 years — multiple generations of people never saw the British crown pass from one head to another. One word, in particular — "Commonwealth" — might have caught the eyes of many and left them wondering exactly what it is, who belongs to it, and who represents it. That last question might be easiest to answer, at least if we look to the top of the organization: Patricia Scotland. But learning more about Patricia Scotland requires a brief dip into the history of the Commonwealth itself.

Simply put, the Commonwealth is a voluntary association of countries formed from the dissolution of the old British Empire. As the Commonwealth website says, it includes countries big and small, wealthy and less wealthy, from Kenya to Singapore, Jamaica to Australia, and many more: 56 nations and 2.5 billion people total. The entire organization took official root in 1947 when India became independent but still wanted informal and friendly ties to the United Kingdom. Since then, other nations have chosen to join.

As secretary-general of the Commonwealth, Patricia Janet Scotland (nothing to do with the country) is basically the public face of the organization, as the Commonwealth website states. She's responsible for upholding its values and managing its global board of leaders, the Commonwealth Secretariat.

An impressive string of firsts

Patricia Scotland has a monumentally impressive biography. As the Commonwealth website says, she was born in 1955 in Dominica, a commonwealth member and island in the Caribbean to the southeast of the Dominican Republic. She and her family moved to the U.K. when she was a child, where she grew up in east London. Destined for high heights at a young age, she trained to be a lawyer and then not only became the youngest person ever to be promoted to the queen's counsel — a lawyer for the British crown — at 35 but also the first Black woman in the position.

From there, Scotland became deputy High Court judge, recorder, and master of Middle Temple, joined the House of Lords in 1997 as Baroness Scotland of Asthal, and then served as a minister in the Foreign Office, Home Office, and Lord Chancellor's Department. She pushed through numerous criminal justice reforms and was appointed Attorney General for the entirety of England and Wales in 2007. She was the first woman to hold this post since it was created in 1315. Suffice it to say, by the time Scotland was elected secretary-general of the Commonwealth in 2016, the Right Honorary Patricia Scotland QC (her formal name and title) had more than proven herself for the role.

Secretaries-general of the Commonwealth are allowed to serve up to two consecutive terms of four years each, meaning that Scotland will have to step down come 2024.