Prince Charles is set to stand in for Queen Elizabeth at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Australia in 2018.

Prince Charles

Prince Charles

The 91-year-old monarch usually gives a speech during the opening ceremony of the sporting competition - which takes place between the nations of the Commonwealth once every four years - but after her long haul flights have been under review for some time in the interest of her health, her son Charles has been asked to attend in her place.

Prince Charles, 68, will travel to Australia's Gold Coast next April to read out a message penned by the Queen which will "call on athletes to come together in the spirit of friendly competition."

Buckingham Palace said in a statement: "Her Majesty the Queen has asked HRH the Prince of Wales to represent her at the opening of the XXI Commonwealth Games in Australia.

"The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) will take place from 4-15 April next year, with 70 nations and territories taking part.

"As Her Majesty's representative, His Royal Highness will open the Games and read out the Queen's customary message, calling on athletes to come together in the spirit of friendly competition."

The Queen's message is contained within the Queen's Baton, which is currently on a 388-day journey around the Commonwealth nations following the start of the relay at Buckingham Palace back in March.

The baton - which was carried its first few hundred metres by a succession of British Olympic stars, including heptathlete Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill and cycling champion Victoria Pendleton - is set to make a stop at all 52 of the Commonwealth nations during the relay which covers more than 140,000 miles.

Queen Elizabeth marked the start of the relay on Commonwealth Day (13.03.17) by promoting "respect and understanding" between the Commonwealth nations in a message written in the ceremony's order of service.

The message read: "The cornerstones on which peace is founded are, quite simply, respect and understanding for one another. Working together we build peace by defending the dignity of every individual and community.

"By upholding justice and the rule of law and by striving for societies that are fair and offer opportunities for all, we overcome division and find reconciliation, so that the benefits of progress and prosperity may be multiplied and shared.

"As members of the Commonwealth family, we can find much to be thankful for in the inheritances we have received from those who came before us. Through consensus and co-operation, great things have been achieved."