Why Queen's Health Means She Has To Take a Back Seat on Royal Family Duties

Queen Elizabeth II's historic 70-year reign has seen many changes, including the way in which the queen herself performs her duties.

In 2022 the 96-year-old monarch was forced to reevaluate her working schedule and scale back public appearances in the wake of multiple health scares and what Buckingham Palace confirmed to be earlier this month "episodic mobility problems."

This new working format includes the monarch living full-time at Windsor Castle, using it as her working base in place of Buckingham Palace which had been traditionally viewed as her "office" up until the COVID-19 pandemic.

Queen Elizabeth Prince Charles Ill Health Duties
Prince Charles is photographed at the State Opening of Parliament on May 10, 2022. The queen, inset, is pictured on May 23, 2022. Over the past year the queen's health has forced her to take a back seat on royal duties including the State Opening of Parliament. Ben Stansall/WPA Pool/Getty Images/James Whatling/WPA Pool/Getty Images

From Windsor the queen has conducted in-person and virtual audiences with visiting dignitaries such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well as members of the government and her associated charities.

Occasional external visits are being made by the queen from Windsor to events like the service of thanksgiving for the life of Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey in March, the opening of the London railway line named in her honor the "Elizabeth Line" and the Chelsea Flower Show.

Her appearances at these events though are often considered surprises and a break from the traditional published diary which had formed part of the monarch's working practice since the 1950s.

But why is this now the case after 70 years of acting within such a rigid and dependable structure? And why might this see her not attending some of the most important jubilee celebrations of her lifetime? Here, Newsweek looks at the answers.

Health Scares

The queen has experienced a series of health scares since last fall. In October 2021, the monarch was forced to cancel a planned trip to Northern Ireland on the advice of her medical team though no specific reason was released to the public.

At the time Buckingham Palace simply announced: "The queen has reluctantly accepted medical advice to rest for the next few days.

"Her Majesty is in good spirits and is disappointed that she will no longer be able to visit Northern Ireland, where she had been due to undertake a series of engagements today and tomorrow."

Later that same day the palace announced that the queen had been admitted to hospital the previous night for "some preliminary investigations," before going on to state that she continued to be "in good spirits."

The following week the queen took up duties again but canceled her attendance at the COP26 Climate Change Summit in Glasgow. In another statement from Buckingham Palace it was announced that the monarch had been advised to rest for two weeks.

"The doctors have advised that Her Majesty can continue to undertake light, desk-based duties during this time, including some virtual audiences, but not to undertake any official visits," the statement read.

Queen Elizabeth Windsor Castle Based Duties
Following her health scares the queen began a new working routine from Windsor Castle, where she is pictured on April 28, 2022. Dominic Lipinski/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Though the queen's health appeared to improve following the rest, she did not attend the remembrance Sunday ceremony in London, a deeply solemn event, nor did she travel to her country home, Sandringham, for Christmas owing to the increased numbers of COVID-19 infections circulating at the time.

In February 2022, after resuming in-person meetings at Windsor Castle, it was announced that the queen had tested positive for COVID-19 and would go into isolation in accordance with government guidelines. The statement from Buckingham Palace read:

"Buckingham Palace confirm that The Queen has today tested positive for COVID. Her Majesty is experiencing mild cold-like symptoms but expects to continue light duties at Windsor over the coming week. She will continue to receive medical attention and will follow all the appropriate guidelines."

The royal made a recovery from the virus and was ready to receive in-person visitors by early March.

Since then the queen has not suffered any announced bouts of serious ill health beyond fatigue and what has now become the driving cause of her reduced public appearances—poor mobility.

Episodic Mobility Problems

Concerns over the queen's mobility began around the time of her initial health scares in October 2021 when she was seen using a walking stick in public for the first time since undergoing a knee operation in 2003.

The adoption of this new walking aid was highlighted in February 2022 when during an audience at Windsor Castle with outgoing Defence Services Secretary Admiral James Macleod, she responded to the question of "how are you?" with "as you can see, I can't move."

The monarch's mobility struggles were given as the reason behind a series of canceled appearances throughout March and April.

In May 2022 it was announced that the queen had taken advice from her doctors that she should not attend the State Opening of Parliament and instead would be represented by Prince Charles, Prince William and her Counselors of State. The announcement stated that:

"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 tomorrow."

Queen Elizabeth Walking Stick Windsor 2022
The queen is now regularly photographed using a walking stick. In this picture the queen is photographed with her youngest son, Prince Edward, right, on May 13, 2022. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Though no official announcement has been made by the palace regarding the queen's mobility and her appearances at the planned events for her Platinum Jubilee in the first week of June, it is expected that the monarch will reduce her number of planned appearances in accordance with medical advice to reduce the risk of injury.

Transition of Power

The queen's ill health being a catalyst for reducing her working schedule and delegating greater state and public duties to heir to the throne Prince Charles has been seen by some as a necessary transition of power in preparation for the next reign.

A recent poll by Redfield & Wilton for Newsweek found that 45 percent of Brits felt that the queen should effectively retire owing to her advanced age and ill-health.

Survey data also suggests that the public are supportive of Charles becoming king with May polling results finding that 49 percent of Brits thought the prince would do a "good job" as king and 75 percent stating the same of Prince William.

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