Queen’s lifelong commitment to public service

Taz Ali, PA
·3-min read

The Queen will continue to attend public engagements following the death of her husband – a lifelong commitment she has made from a young age.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the 94-year-old monarch has always carried out a full programme of engagements and has links to more than 600 charities, military associations, professional bodies and public service organisations.

She famously pledged her life to the Commonwealth in a radio address from Cape Town on her 21st birthday in 1947.

As a young woman, the then Princess Elizabeth said: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Young Queen
Princess Elizabeth, shortly before her 21st birthday in 1947 (PA Archive)

On February 6 1952, she acceded to the throne and became the longest-reigning monarch in British history on September 9, 2015, passing the record of more than 63 years set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

In a commemorative photo to mark the milestone, taken by celebrity photographer Mary McCartney, the Queen is shown working from papers delivered to her in a famous red box.

These boxes contain documents she receives from government ministers and from her representatives in Commonwealth and foreign countries everyday of the year, with the exception of Christmas Day.

These include Cabinet documents, Foreign Office telegrams, a daily summary of events in Parliament, letters and other State papers, which have to be read and, where necessary, approved and signed.

Queen with red box
The Queen working from papers delivered to her in a famous red box (PA Archive)

She still uses the boxes made for her on her coronation, embossed with the words “The Queen”, which have been refurbished over the years.

In 2020, as Covid-19 restrictions limited public gatherings, the Queen tried her hand at video calls for virtual events and knighted veteran NHS fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore in the grounds of Windsor in July.

She was back to business in October last year in her first public engagement outside of a royal residence since the coronavirus pandemic at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down near Salisbury.

According to their official website, the royal family carries out more than 2,000 official engagements throughout the UK and overseas every year, and receive and answer about 100,000 letters.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh (Fiona Hanson/PA)

The Duke of Edinburgh retired from public life in 2017, after completing 22,219 solo public engagements since 1952 and many thousands more at the side of his wife.

Since then, the Queen has been joined a number of times by her grandchildren at official events.

In 2019, the monarch worked 67 days, according to the Court Circular, and 63 days the year before.

The Queen, and other royals, will observe two weeks of what is known as royal mourning starting from Friday when Philip died aged 99, at which time public engagements will continue appropriate to the circumstances, a senior royal official said.