British Queen's Health Questioned Following Event Skip

Published November 15th, 2021 - 11:30 GMT
Queen's Health questioned following event skip
Queen Elizabeth II has a "sprained back" and will miss Sunday's Remembrance service -- her first planned public appearance since resting on medical advice, Buckingham Palace said. (Photo by TOBY MELVILLE / POOL / AFP)
Boris Johnson told reporters at a conference held in Downing Street on Sunday Queen is 'very well'

The Queen may be forced to further ‘scale back’ her public commitments after she had to miss the Cenotaph event yesterday.

The 95-year-old monarch was said to be ‘deeply disappointed’ at having to take the 11th hour decision not to lead the nation’s remembrance of its war dead because of a back sprain.

Buckingham Palace had long said it was her ‘firm intention’ to be there, despite her having to cancel a run of engagements due to ill health. And on Thursday officials announced she would be at the London ceremony.

But yesterday morning, less than two hours before she was due to arrive, a spokesman said she had suffered further ill health and could no longer attend. They stressed there was no connection with her recent hospitalisation. 

She watched the ceremony live on TV at home in Windsor, where the Prince of Wales laid a wreath. The Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra also attended. 

Boris Johnson told 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 daily list of official royal engagements showed that Mr Johnson had an audience with the Queen on Friday, as he was in Glasgow on Wednesday speaking at the Cop26 climate change summit. 

The monarch, who lived through the Second World War as a teenager, is head of the armed forces and attaches great importance to the poignant service and to commemorating the sacrifices made by fallen servicemen and women.

She started the Second World War as a schoolgirl but ended it in uniform as a junior commander with the Auxiliary Territorial Service. 

She returned to Windsor Castle on Tuesday after a long-planned weekend away at her Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

The Queen has only missed six other Cenotaph ceremonies during 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.

She was not present during the 1959 and 1963 services as she was pregnant with her two youngest children.

The Queen has missed several other events, including the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday evening. 

She was forced to cancel a two-day visit to Northern Ireland at the last minute three weeks ago after being ordered to rest by doctors following a slew of public engagements.

It later emerged that she had been in hospital overnight for 'preliminary investigations', although palace official declined to comment on what these might be. She has since been ordered to rest for 'at least' another fortnight

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall led the diminished family group at the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in London last night but the Queen was not in attendance.

They were 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.

The latest setback has led many in royal circles to believe that when she eventually feels well enough to return to more taxing duties, the Queen is unlikely to be overworked. 

‘I firmly believe the public won’t see her out and about as much,’ one source told the Daily Mail. ‘That said, she will still be visible, carrying out less taxing engagements within palace walls.

‘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.’

Another source went further, saying they did not believe the Queen would undertake events such as large scale investitures again.

Palace aides say ‘nothing can be ruled out, and nothing can be ruled in’, but concede that some key events such as handing out honours could be scaled back for her, perhaps with smaller sessions or one-on-ones in private.

The last investiture conducted by the Queen was at Buckingham Palace in November 2019, when she awarded honours to more than 65 people. 

The Queen has the sole right of conferring titles such as knighthoods, MBEs, OBEs and CBEs.

Recipients collect their awards from her or another member of the Royal Family at events that can last more than an hour. 

For knighthoods the Queen has to wield her father King George VI’s heavy ceremonial sword.

As a result, Prince Charles, Prince William and Princess Anne have been increasingly taking on the role.

It is not known how she hurt herself, but she has suffered from back pain before and did not experience a fall.

Insiders said she had ‘unequivocally’ intended to be at the Cenotaph and on Friday staff were busy planning for her presence. This suggests that she began to feel uncomfortable over the weekend.

The Queen was not taken to hospital and is continuing to rest at Windsor. It is understood that her doctors told her the pain was not conducive to the drive from Windsor to London and a long period of standing on her feet.

‘To say that she is deeply disappointed to miss it is an understatement,’ said one.

‘It is the most inked-in commitment in her diary each year.’

A royal aide added: ‘It is obviously incredibly unfortunate timing and nobody regrets the Queen’s absence more than her majesty herself. She is deeply disappointed to miss the engagement which she regards as one of the most significant engagements of the year.’

The Mail understands that she has one or two virtual audiences in her diary this week which staff expect her to undertake as part of her programme of ‘rest and light duties’.

The Queen was last seen in public on October 19, when she held a reception at Windsor for business leaders, tech entrepreneurs and governmental representatives. Among those present was Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates.

The previous two engagements before that had seen the Queen using a walking stick in public for the first time.

Royal biographer Penny Junor said missing the Cenotaph event would be a blow for the Queen.

She added: ‘Remembering the war dead is a very, very important part of her annual calendar.

‘But clearly she must follow the advice and get herself well. It’s not surprising because she is 95. 

'We're so used to seeing her out and about and looking years younger than she is that I think we've been lulled into thinking she can go on at this kind of pace forever. Clearly she can't.'

Palace insider Robert Jobson told GB News that the day would be 'emotional' for the Queen and that she would have 'very poignant memories' as the only living head of state who served in World War Two.

He said: 'Because, of course, the loss of her husband in April, he was a veteran who served in the Royal Navy with distinction and was mentioned in dispatches over the Battle of Mattapan, and so it's going to be quite emotional I think for her.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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