How Queen's Absence From Royal Ascot Signifies Overhaul of Her Annual Diary

Queen Elizabeth II was absent from the first day of the traditional Royal Ascot horse racing event on Tuesday, something which signifies the dramatic overhaul of the 96-year-old monarch's annual diary since a series of health scares last year.

The queen's notable absence from the opening day of the proceedings was marked when Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall took their place leading other members of the royal family including the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and Princess Anne in the traditional carriage procession along the racecourse.

The queen is a passionate horsewoman and in the past has always attended Royal Ascot when she is in the country, usually hosting a party of guests for the event at Windsor Castle.

Prince Charles and Camilla Royal Ascot 2022
Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall led the traditional royal carriage procession at the opening day of Royal Ascot on June 14, 2022. Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The queen's absence from the first day of Royal Ascot comes as the monarch was forced to skip the special Platinum Jubilee Epsom Derby which had been factored in as an official event in her June jubilee weekend.

The queen was due to attend the event on the Saturday of the long weekend but owing to some "slight discomfort" incurred during her Buckingham Palace balcony appearance on June 2 did not appear in public again until the closing of the celebrations on June 5.

The queen's non-attendance at Royal Ascot signifies a greater change to her annual diary which has been completely overhauled since the beginning of the COVID pandemic in 2020.

The traditional events which went to make up the queen's official diary, and at which the public would be guaranteed to see her, included Royal Ascot, the Royal Maundy service, the Commonwealth Day service and the Remembrance Sunday wreath-laying at the Cenotaph in London have all been disrupted.

The new working model sees the queen no longer residing at Buckingham Palace, instead living full-time at Windsor Castle from where she undertakes the majority of her work. The queen has also reduced the number of public appearances she makes, deciding on the day if she feels able to attend.

This complete overhaul of the queen's working schedule, which had changed little from 1952 to 2020, has come as a result of a series of health scares experienced by the monarch last fall and what Buckingham Palace has officially termed "episodic mobility problems."

Queenmobile at The Chelsea Flower Show
The queen debuted the $77,000 "Queenmobile" mobility aid at the Chelsea Flower Show on May 23, 2022. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The queen began using a walking stick in October 2021 and has since then increasingly been photographed with a walking aid, usually a crook-style stick formerly used by the monarch's late husband, Prince Philip.

The queen added to the mobility aids at her disposal earlier this year with the purchase of a $77,000 luxury golf cart dubbed by the press as the "Queenmobile." The cart was first used by the queen on the opening day of the Chelsea Flower Show in May and was driven by one of the royal mews' liveried chauffeurs.

Perhaps the most important royal event that the queen has not attended due to health and mobility problems was the State Opening of Parliament in May, at which she was represented by Prince Charles and Prince William in their positions as Counsellors of State.

Queen Elizabeth II Royal Ascot First Day
Queen Elizabeth II's absence on the first day of the Royal Ascot horseracing event comes as she has overhauled her working practices after a series of health and mobility problems. Jonathan Brady/WPA Pool/Getty Images

This important constitutional duty was delegated to Charles after Buckingham Palace released a statement reading:

"The Queen continues to experience episodic mobility problems, and in consultation with her doctors has reluctantly decided that she will not attend the State Opening of Parliament."

In a move that formalizes the new working practice of the monarch, the queen's diary of events is no longer published in advance by Buckingham Palace so the public does not know if and when they can expect to see her.

A hybrid working model sees the queen undertake a blend of in-person engagements from Windsor Castle and digital video conferences which allow her to speak with representatives from Commonwealth realms such as Canada and Australia.

Prince Charles Reads Queen's Speech to Parliament
Prince Charles deputized for his mother by reading her speech at the State Opening of Parliament on May 10, 2022. Alastair Grant/WPA Pool/Getty Images

What this means for the royal pomp and pageantry of in-person royal events such as Royal Ascot and the State Opening of Parliament is that the public will see more of Charles and Camilla standing in the queen's place.

Though the queen has missed the first day of the Royal Ascot races, it is possible that she will attend the event, which runs until June 18, on one of the subsequent days. It has been reported that though the queen might attend, the decision will not be made until the day in question and the monarch is not expected to take part in the carriage procession, instead arriving at the racecourse by car.

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