For the first time in more than 70 years, the Queen has missed an important event. And it raises questions about Her Majesty’s health.
Sometimes royal life is just too crazy for words. For over 70 years, the Queen has been invariably present at that annual festival of horse meat and frippery, Royal Ascot, with millions of pounds betting every year on what color chapeau Her Majesty would wear.
That’s the money that can be made from this one bet that in 2019, the Queen’s old dresser and BFF Angela Kelly revealed that decoys are made to prevent palace staff from getting an inside track at betting.
Then think today of Ascot bookies whose earnings were that much lower this week after – dramatic break here – Her Majesty skipped the entire race for the first time in 70 years.
Although the 96-year-old may have missed the State Opening of Parliament three times during her time on the throne, she avoided Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph and handed over Buckingham Palace’s garden party duty to the royal youths she never, ever. has skipped all five days of the horse festivities. Ever.
You have to understand here, this isn’t just another merry knees, a chance to have a sly glass of champers and a long bullet and bloodline gossip with her race manager, rather than wading through her red box or listening to Boris Johnston is whining about Brussels. Her Majesty is a woman obsessed with all things horse and while she may have devoted a lifetime of enduring royal duty, she is almost equally devoted to all things four-legged and hay-loving.
Look no further than the fact that the Queen may have never given a single interview in her life, but in March, despite ongoing health problems, agreed to take part in a documentary for the ITV Racing channel with footage showing how she happily feeds carrots to foals on her Sandringham estate.
In the same Queen-sanctioned book in which Kelly revealed the decoy gambit, she also said that “only in extreme circumstances would Her Majesty be absent” Ascot.
“Extreme circumstances” have clearly arrived.
Ascot now joins the ever-growing list of formally sacred events that have been scrapped from the Queen’s calendar, as she continues to experience what Buckingham Palace calls ‘episodic mobility issues’.
Even during her platinum anniversary celebrations earlier this month, marking a truly historic milestone, she was only able to appear in public for a total of 27 minutes over four days.
Whatever’s ailing her right now, nothing short of a miracle (and considering she’s the head of an entire religion, you’d have to assume she has a hotline to God) will see some sort of marked improvement here.
The sad truth is that we now have a Limbo Queen, a monarch who rules in name only, who has tucked herself into some Gothic monster as her children and grandchildren go out into the world representing the House of Windsor.
We may not see her in public for months now, possibly until mid to late September.
Normally, in July, the Queen would head north to Scotland, first for Holyrood Week, her annual sojourn at her palace in Edinburgh, along with the annual garden party held there, and for the biannual service for the Order of the Thistle- service, the oldest Scottish chivalric order.
Her Majesty then normally heads further north for a few months of R&R and mosquito bites on her 50,000-acre estate in Deeside, before making a public appearance again in September.
It’s more likely that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will show up in hot pants at her next official engagement than Her Majesty will be taking part in one of these previously non-negotiable Scottish events next month.
Sure, courtiers probably have a few Zoom appointments scheduled between now and the non-year-old kicks off her annual summer vacation in Balmoral, if only to prove to the world she’s still alive, if not exactly, but it all seems. so sad .
Watching her reign sputter in a series of canceled events is an exercise in ever-increasing degrees of pathos and dismay.
What the UK and Commonwealth are now dealing with is this uneasy no man’s land between governments. The Queen is technically still sovereign, of course, but can’t actually become a Queen taking the couch and Prince Charles opens things up with gusto, but is still technically just a Prince.
This week the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) kicks off in Rwanda where Charles will fly the flag alongside Camilla, just the latest in the ever-growing list of headline events that he’s now taking in place of his mother .
He may not be the most popular member of the royal family, but he has become the public face of the monarchy, especially in the past year, on the world stage, at the state opening of parliament, on Garter Day, in Ascot and now. also CHOGM.
The center can’t hold it.
This cobbled together co-sovereign situation doesn’t inspire much confidence, as the monarchy is in a particularly precarious place right now.
In February, Prine paid Andrew Virginia Giuffre a reported $22.5 million to settle the sexual abuse civil suit she brought against him in an attempt to draw a line under the sordid crisis. (He has always vehemently denied her allegations that he sexually assaulted her three times when she was a teenager.)
However, the fallout of Andrew’s friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein continues. During the weekend, the Mirror News broke that US attorneys are willing to subpoena the 62-year-old to get a statement from him, claiming he was at Epstein’s New York mansion the night the financier raped a young woman.
Meanwhile, the restless Duke and Duchess of Sussex in California have shown no indication that they are done with their truthful offensive. He, of course, has a memoir in the works as they are both reportedly filming a “home” docu-series for Netflix.
Will they be able to fill hours and hours of content without ever diving into the royal trauma they claim to have suffered? Perhaps the better question is, what kind of juicy tidbits or revelations that make headlines could the streaming giant expect in exchange for the $140 million they’re reportedly paying for this and other projects?
My point is here, after years of being ravaged by PR crisis after PR catastrophe, what the institution of the monarchy desperately needs right now is clear and decisive leadership.
Instead, the whole outfit feels out of control.
What seems likely is that the Duke of York will continue to try and stage comeback attempts, interspersed with possible new Epstein-related legal dramas; the Sussexes will at some point produce some content that may or may not hinder the royal family; the queen will keep disappearing from view and Charles will do things to make himself look positively royal.
How is the palace going to get through the coming year, with a royal autobiography, the Sussexes’ DIY-reality show series, and whatever new Andrew-related hell pops up if they don’t have some sort of stabilizing public presence at the top?
Would anyone invest in an ASX top 20 company if the CEO was in such bad shape that they had no choice but to live in remote rural areas and only make a short video call once a month? This is an untenable situation that is unlikely to be resolved any time soon, possibly to the long-term damage of the monarchy.
So, where was the Queen last week when she wasn’t in Ascot, you might ask?
She was at home in her apartments in Windsor Castle, watching racing on television all five days. (Given the Queen’s famous caution with money, I assume she still has a stocky color set with bunny ears and a footman permanently on hand to spin it to ensure the best signal.)
I hope she has at least put a pound on some winners here and there to cheer herself up.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with over 15 years experience working with leading Australian media titles.
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