After health difficulties announced in October, when her trip to Northern Ireland was cancelled, Queen Elizabeth II had appeared to be on the mend, with Buckingham Palace indicating weeks ago that she would attend the most important annual day of commemoration for the Royal Family and the Commonwealth – Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph.
The longest-reigning British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, may be forced to “scale back” her public commitments. The Queen had been expected to attend a Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in London on 14 November, but was forced to miss the event at the last moment after spraining her back.
Buckingham Palace had subsequently announced a change of plans, with a wreath laid to honour the UK’s war dead on her behalf by her son, Charles, the Prince of Wales. This had prompted some sources in royal circles to suggest that even after recovering from the current injury, the 95-year old monarch is unlikely to ever return to more strenuous duties.
“I firmly believe the public won’t see her out and about as much… That said, she will still be visible, carrying out less taxing engagements within palace walls,” a source was cited by the Daily Mail as saying, adding:
“The whole video and virtual engagement development as a result of Covid has given palace aides options they didn’t have before. But there will definitely be a change in pace.”
Other insiders were inclined to believe that the monarch’s schedule would no longer involve events such as large scale investitures – ceremonies at which honours or rank are formally conferred on individuals. At the same time, palace aides were cited as acknowledging that “nothing can be ruled out, and nothing can be ruled in”.
They are cited as conceding that ceremonies such as the handing out honours could be scaled back and likely substituted with smaller, possibly, one-on-one events. The last such ceremony conducted by the Queen was at Buckingham Palace in November 2019. At the time the monarch, who has the sole right of conferring titles such as knighthoods, MBEs, OBEs and CBEs, awarded honours to more than 65 people. Such events may last more than an hour.
‘Deeply Disappointing’ Setback
The Queen was “deeply disappointed” over having to miss the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in central London, Buckingham Palace had said in a statement less than two hours before the monarch was due to arrive for Sunday’s ceremony. The Queen similarly skipped the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday evening.
The royal family was represented at the event by Charles, Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, joined by Prince William, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, the Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, and the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra.
“To say that she is deeply disappointed to miss it is an understatement. It is the most inked-in commitment in her diary each year,” a palace source was quoted as saying.
There has been no clarification as to how the monarch, who has suffered from back pain before, hurt herself on this occasion, with sources saying she did not experience a fall. According to insiders, the Queen had “unequivocally” intended to attend the service at the Cenotaph, with staff still planning her presence on Friday afternoon. This appears to be an indication that the monarch began to feel unwell over the weekend. However, she was not taken to hospital.
Stressing that the current setback had no connection with the Queen’s recent hospitalisation, the palace expressed hope that the monarch would continue as planned with a schedule of “rest and light duties” the following week, such as one or two virtual audiences, writes the publication.
The monarch, who worked during the Second World War as a mechanic to contribute to her nation’s effort under a false name while still a teenager, is said to have watched the Remembrance ceremony live on TV at home in Windsor Castle, where she returned on Tuesday after a weekend away at her Sandringham estate in Norfolk.
The Queen has missed only six other Cenotaph ceremonies throughout her reign: on four occasions when she was on overseas visits to Ghana in 1961, Brazil in 1968, Kenya in 1983 and South Africa in 1999. On the other two occasions the monarch was not present – in 1959 and 1963 – she was pregnant with her two youngest children.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought to reassure the public regarding the Queen’s health, saying at a Downing Street press conference:
“I know that everybody will be wanting to offer their best wishes to her majesty the Queen and I just wanted to reassure everybody by saying that I did see the Queen for an audience last week on Wednesday in Windsor and she’s very well. It shouldn’t need saying but I just wanted to say it anyway.”
The current setback comes after the monarch had been under doctors’ orders to rest for almost a month after spending a night in hospital in October. At the time, the Queen’s two-day visit to Northern Ireland was cancelled, as Buckingham Palace later revealed she had spent an evening in the hospital for “preliminary investigations”. Medical recommendations were also cited when Elizabeth II opted not to attend COP26 – the 2021 United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow in person.
Queen Elizabeth II was last seen in public on 19 October, hosting a reception at Windsor for business leaders, tech entrepreneurs and governmental representatives, while at two earlier engagements the monarch was seen leaning on a walking stick in public, apparently, for the first time.