Late cancellation may be sign Queen’s busy schedule is taking a toll

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Jacob King/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Jacob King/AFP/Getty Images

The Queen’s 11th-hour cancellation for medical reasons of a long-planned visit to Northern Ireland comes at a busy period for the 95-year-old monarch, and is a decision that will not have been taken lightly.

Much preparation goes into official visits. On this occasion the Queen was due to meet members of the community at Hillsborough and attend a service of reconciliation and hope at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, marking the centenary of partition and Northern Ireland’s foundation, alongside Boris Johnson.

So the announcement that she has “reluctantly accepted medical advice to rest for the next few days” suggests her workload may be taking its toll. No details are known about exactly what her health issues are, except that the cancellation is not Covid-related. She has been fully vaccinated, and given her age it is the assumption that she has received a booster jab.

Last week she paid her first visit to Wales in five years, opening the sixth term of the Senedd on Thursday. At the weekend she attended Champions Day at Ascot, where she was inducted into the official hall of fame for British flat racing. On Monday she held a virtual audience with the new governor general of New Zealand, and on Tuesday she had similar virtual engagements from Windsor Castle to greet Japan’s ambassador to the UK, Hajime Hayashi, and the EU’s ambassador, João Vale de Almeida.

On Tuesday evening she was smiling and chatting alongside the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge at a Windsor Castle reception for business leaders, presidential envoys and tech entrepreneurs attending the government’s global investment summit.

“She has been busy – busier than perhaps we might have expected her to be. So, given her age, it’s not a great surprise that there will be short-notice cancellations or postponements,” said Joe Little, the managing editor of Majesty magazine.

On Tuesday it was revealed the Queen had declined the accolade of Oldie of the Year because, according to her office, she felt she did not meet the criteria and believed “you are only as old as you feel”.

“It’s a little bit unfortunate that this comes so soon after that.” said Little. “But we don’t know what the problem is, and we won’t be told, as that will be classed as private. Clearly she hates letting people down, particularly at the last minute. Northern Ireland is an hour on the plane, so it’s certainly not long-haul. But I think, at 95, it’s still an upheaval, even when you don’t have to pack your own bag.”

Overall the Queen has enjoyed robust health, though in January 2020 she missed her annual visit to the Sandringham Women’s Institute due to a slight cold.

She has largely avoided making many public concessions to her age. Last week, though, she used a walking stick for what is believed to have been the first time at a major public event when she attended a Westminster Abbey service to mark the centenary of the Royal British Legion. She leaned on a stick again in Wales, and briefly at the end of her Ascot visit.

And she has some key events coming up in her diary. She is due to travel to Glasgow for the Cop26 climate summit at the end of the month, is expected to attend Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph, and will soon be recording her Christmas Day broadcast to the nation.

Next year her platinum jubilee will be marked with a four-day weekend of events including trooping the colour, a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s, a visit to the Epsom Derby, a live concert at Buckingham Palace and a jubilee pageant.

It has been six months since the death of the Duke of Edinburgh at the age of 99. The Queen quickly returned to duties after his funeral. “She has been out and about,” said Little. “And she has looked in remarkably good form. But unfortunately there will be the occasional glitch given her age. It’s an inevitability and happens to the best of us.”

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