On Thursday, she chose to visit her horses privately rather than attend the first day of the Royal Windsor Horse Show. She was expected to make the short drive from Windsor Castle to the show grounds to watch her horse, First Receiver, compete in a Thoroughbred qualifier.
The show is one of the Queen’s favorite events of the year. She’s been there every year since it began as a wartime fundraiser event in 1943.
And then on Friday she made a surprising appearance in the front seat of a Range Rover at the arena and later, using a cane, in the stands. She was cheered by onlookers when they noticed her presence.
Now she is expected to appear at only two of the events next month to mark her 70 years on the throne: the Trooping of the Colour, for the famous family portrait on the palace balcony, and the thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. If she attends the Derby in Epsom, it will likely be in an unofficial capacity, sitting in the royal box without the pomp of arriving in a horse-drawn carriage down the famous straight.
She will watch a tribute concert and a ‘popular procession’ from her couch. At the age of 81, Sir Cliff Richard will star for the fourth anniversary of his long career, driving an open-top double-decker bus through the streets of London.
He’s joined by celebrities, including Oscar winner Jeremy Irons and English football hero Gary Lineker, and a parade featuring TV character Basil Brush and a pack of moving corgi dolls.
Ed Sheeran will deliver the musical grand finale for Buckingham Palace. A well-known fan of classic show tunes along with the music of her wartime childhood, the Queen’s favorite performer is Duke Ellington. She can’t stay up for Ed.
Robert Jobson, London’s experienced royal commentator Evening Standardsays the Queen’s assured, measured tone at Christmas and state events throughout the lives of the majority of her subjects “have given us every confidence.”
“At 96 years old, it’s definitely time for us to be there for her,” he says. “She shouldn’t have to wait all the time to make statements about ‘will she, won’t she’ be at a particular event. It is not right and not appropriate.”
Jobson says that as planners in London prepare for the anniversary celebrations, the royal family and the British government should use the moment to get things on track. The Queen has already expressed her wish for Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, to become queen consort when Charles becomes king, he says. And she’s also urged Commonwealth leaders to support Charles as their next head when the time comes.
“She remains our queen, but she should not be expected to continue to make the mental and physical demands of a constitutional head of state,” he said.
“Charles, at age 73, is the most prepared queen ever. He is a man of vision. He, like his mother, is devoted and dutiful.
“At 96 years old, the Queen should be free to relax and spend time doing exactly what she wants. She deserves the chance to step aside, retaining her crown, and let Charles take the reins at the twilight of her illustrious reign. The end of her anniversary celebration may be the right time to do that.”
One of her closest confidants, her longtime seamstress Angela Kelly, has revealed in recent weeks that the Queen is grappling with the grief following the death of her husband, Prince Philip, last year.
Kelly, in an updated version of her memoir, recalled how the monarch chose to remain alone in the immediate aftermath of her husband’s funeral.
“I helped her out with her coat and hat and no words were spoken,” she said.
“The Queen then walked into her sitting room, closed the door behind her, and was alone with her own thoughts.”
We should not be surprised. By the time Queen Victoria reached her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, she too had mobility issues. In her case, arthritic hips rendered her virtually immobile at age 78.
For this year’s events, the Queen will not use the gold state carriage as it will lead the Platinum Jubilee Pageant procession, and will instead drive to the Thanksgiving service at St Paul’s, arriving at an easier entrance than the Great West Door.
Joe Little, editor-in-chief of Your Majesty Magazinesays the queen’s increasingly rare appearances had a “huge inevitability” given her age.
He said Charles’s speech from the queen this week was “another part of his education”, though a duty he probably didn’t want to fulfill under the circumstances.
“And that’s the future as I really see it,” Little says. “That we won’t see her, but occasionally we will.”
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