The Queen's absence cast a 'dark cloud' over Remembrance Sunday

The Queen’s absence cast a ‘dark cloud’ over Remembrance Sunday: Fears grow over health of 95-year-old monarch – as royal experts praise three ‘wonderful women’ who stepped in for her

  • Queen is said to be ‘deeply disappointed’ at having to take the 11th hour decision not to lead remembrance 
  • Royal commentators say Britons are becoming more ’emotionally’ worried about their 95-year-old monarch
  • Angela Levin says attendees at ceremony were ‘perhaps thinking in a way that we wouldn’t really like to think’ 
  • But she praises Camilla, Kate and Sophie for being ‘dedicated to monarchy and working ‘tremendously hard’

The absence of the Queen cast a ‘dark cloud’ over Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph – but she was represented by three ‘wonderful women’ on the balcony in Camilla, Kate and Sophie, royal experts said today.

The 95-year-old monarch was said to be ‘deeply disappointed’ at having to take the 11th hour decision not to lead the nation’s remembrance of its war dead in Westminster yesterday because of a back sprain.

And royal commentators said Britons are becoming more ’emotionally’ worried about her, with the looks on the faces of attendees suggesting they were ‘perhaps thinking in a way that we wouldn’t really like to think’.

Royal author Angela Levin said it was ‘the most important engagement of the year’ for the Queen but she would have found it ‘very uncomfortable to travel by car from Windsor to London’ and then ‘stand for a long time’.

She told GB News: ‘She apparently watched it on television, so she was there in spirit, but of course not in herself. I think we all feel an age is coming to end, but we don’t know how long and I think that’s quite right too really.

‘You couldn’t have asked for more wonderful women up there on the balcony. I think they’re all dedicated to the monarchy, they work tremendously hard, they don’t try and gain fame for themselves.

‘I think they put themselves into keeping the monarchy going and working as hard as they can for the Queen. I think we’re jolly lucky to have three women like that and they shine above those who don’t have the same views.’

Buckingham Palace had long said it was her ‘firm intention’ to be there, despite her having to cancel a run of engagements due to ill health. And on Thursday officials announced she would be at the London ceremony.

But yesterday morning, less than two hours before she was due to arrive, a spokesman said she had suffered further ill health and could no longer attend. They stressed there was no connection with her recent hospital stay. 

(From left) Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Kate, Duchess of Cambridge; and Sophie, Countess of Wessex stand on the balcony of the Foreign Office in Westminster yesterday during the Remembrance service where the Queen would have been present

The Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge stand on the balcony at the Remembrance Sunday service yesterday

LAST SEEN — The Queen is photographed leaving Wood Farm on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk on Tuesday last week

The National Service of Remembrance service, pictured yesterday, is one of the Queen’s most important events of the year

Prince Charles leads the royal family at this year’s Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall yesterday


Prince Edward (left) and Princess Anne (right) lay wreaths at the Cenotaph during Remembrance Sunday yesterday

The Duke of Cambridge walks past dignitaries holding wreaths after he laid his wreath at the Cenotaph yesterday

The Queen would normally have appeared on the central balcony where the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra stood yesterday. Members of the Royal Family (left to right) Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent, Princess Alexandra, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duchess of Cambridge and Sophie, Countess of Wessex

She watched the ceremony live on TV at home in Windsor. Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference: ‘I know that everybody will be wanting to offer their best wishes to her majesty the Queen.

‘And I just wanted to reassure everybody by saying that I did see the Queen for an audience last week on Wednesday in Windsor and she’s very well. It shouldn’t need saying but I just wanted to say it anyway.’ 

Major events the Queen has missed after rest orders and hospital stay

The national Remembrance Sunday service is just one of a key number of engagements the Queen has missed over the past few weeks. Here are the others:

– Northern Ireland

The Queen cancelled a two-day trip to Northern Ireland at the last minute on October 20. Buckingham Palace announced she had been ordered to rest by her royal doctors on the morning she was due to begin the visit.

The Palace said the monarch was resting at Windsor Castle but it later emerged she was secretly admitted to hospital that afternoon for ‘preliminary investigations’. She spent the night at King Edward VII’s Hospital – her first overnight hospital stay in eight years.

– Cop26 climate change summit

The Queen was due to travel to Scotland to address world leaders on November 1 at the crucial environmental summit and attend a major reception with other members of the royal family.

But five days before the event, the Palace said the Queen had ‘regretfully decided that she will no longer travel to Glasgow to attend the evening reception of Cop26’. Instead, the Queen recorded a video message calling on leaders to rise above politics and tackle the global warming crisis.

– Festival of Remembrance

Each year, the royal family gathers at the Royal Albert Hall for a poignant commemorative event on the night before Remembrance Sunday. The Festival of Remembrance, where poppy petals fall from the ceiling during the two-minute silence, is dedicated to all those from Britain and across the Commonwealth who have served in the military and sacrificed their lives.

On October 29, the Palace said the Queen had been advised to rest for at least a further two weeks and she would miss the Festival of Remembrance The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall instead lead royals, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, at the event.

– Remembrance Sunday

It was the Queen’s ‘firm intention’ to be at the national service of remembrance on November 14, the Palace said on October 29, with her attendance confirmed in details released on Armistice Day on November 11. But less than two hours before she was due to appear, it was announced she would no longer be present because of a sprained back.

The Queen, head of the Armed Forces, attaches great importance to honouring the war dead. It is only the seventh time she has missed the ceremony during her reign.

The other instances include four occasions when she was on overseas visits to Ghana in 1961, Brazil in 1968, Kenya in 1983 and South Africa in 1999. She was not present during the 1959 and 1963 services as she was pregnant with her two youngest children.

– The General Synod

The Queen is also missing the General Synod. She will not be at the Synod service at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday November 16, nor the opening inauguration session at Church House, the Westminster headquarters of the Church of England, afterwards. The Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church of England and has a strong Christian faith, and the General Synod is the church’s national assembly.

It is believed to be the first time the Queen has missed her five-yearly visit to the General Synod in its 51-year history, according to Buckingham Palace. In 1970 – the year the Synod replaced the Church Assembly – she became the first sovereign to inaugurate and address the gathering in person. Since then she has inaugurated and addressed the opening session every five years after diocesan elections. The 2020 elections were postponed to this year due to the pandemic.

Also commenting on her absence and future was Duncan Larcombe, former royal editor at the Sun, who told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘Obviously nobody wants her to (step aside). 

‘What’s interesting is next year is her 70th on the throne, and I would argue she’s probably more popular amongst the British public now than she has been certainly for many years.

‘So I’m not saying I want her (to step aside)… but she’s 95 years old. She came back from Balmoral earlier this September, committed almost with a spring in her step to do all those royal engagements, but then her health started to fail her.

‘It was a cold then, she’s pulled out for the first time in 22 years, pulled out of Remembrance Sunday, one of the most important things in her calendar. So clearly, yes, everyone’s playing down how serious it is.’

Political commentator Dominique Samuels added: ‘I think the country needs her, and especially with regards to Prince Charles, I mean he’s never been really quite popular, has he?

‘It’s William, it’s Kate, it’s the Queen, those are the people that the country loves. And in my personal opinion, and from a lot of the comment I’ve seen just generally, a lot of people don’t really like Prince Charles.

‘They feel as though if he stepped in, he would effectively destroy the monarchy. He’s talking about politics, he’s making big statements on climate change. I don’t think that he’s as in tune with the British public as the Queen is. I’m genuinely concerned about the future of the country if the Queen goes.’

The latest setback for the monarch has led many in royal circles to believe that when she eventually feels well enough to return to more taxing duties, the Queen is unlikely to be overworked. 

‘I firmly believe the public won’t see her out and about as much,’ one source told the Daily Mail. ‘That said, she will still be visible, carrying out less taxing engagements within palace walls.

‘The whole video and virtual engagement development as a result of Covid has given palace aides options they didn’t have before. But there will definitely be a change in pace.’

Another source went further, saying they did not believe the Queen would undertake events such as large scale investitures again.

Palace aides say ‘nothing can be ruled out, and nothing can be ruled in’, but concede that some key events such as handing out honours could be scaled back for her, perhaps with smaller sessions or one-on-ones in private.

The last investiture conducted by the Queen was at Buckingham Palace in November 2019, when she awarded honours to more than 65 people.

The Queen has the sole right of conferring titles such as knighthoods, MBEs, OBEs and CBEs.

Recipients collect their awards from her or another member of the Royal Family at events that can last more than an hour. For knighthoods the Queen has to wield her father King George VI’s heavy ceremonial sword.

As a result, Prince Charles, Prince William and Princess Anne have been increasingly taking on the role.

The Queen has missed the Cenotaph commemorations six times in her 69-year reign, twice when she was pregnant and four times when she was away on tour on behalf of the Government.

It is not known how she hurt herself, but she has suffered from back pain before and did not experience a fall.

Insiders said she had ‘unequivocally’ intended to be at the Cenotaph and on Friday staff were busy planning for her presence. This suggests that she began to feel uncomfortable over the weekend.

The Queen was not taken to hospital and is continuing to rest at Windsor. It is understood that her doctors told her the pain was not conducive to the drive from Windsor to London and a long period of standing on her feet.

‘To say that she is deeply disappointed to miss it is an understatement,’ said one.

‘It is the most inked-in commitment in her diary each year.’

A royal aide added: ‘It is obviously incredibly unfortunate timing and nobody regrets the Queen’s absence more than her majesty herself. 

‘She is deeply disappointed to miss the engagement which she regards as one of the most significant engagements of the year.’ 

LAST YEAR — The Queen attends the National Service of Remembrance at The Cenotaph on Whitehall on November 8, 2020

Wreaths of poppies were laid at the foot of the Cenotaph in London yesterday as the country marked Remembrance Sunday

A boy joined veterans of the Guards as they marched past the Cenotaph during the Remembrance Sunday service yesterday

Prime Minister Boris Johnson bows his head after laying his wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday yesterday

Veterans march along Whitehall during Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall yesterday

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Britain’s Princess Alexandra stand on the central balcony in Whitehall yesterday

The Mail understands that she has one or two virtual audiences in her diary this week which staff expect her to undertake as part of her programme of ‘rest and light duties’. 

The Queen was last seen in public on October 19, when she held a reception at Windsor for business leaders, tech entrepreneurs and governmental representatives. Among those present was Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates.

The previous two engagements before that – a visit to Westminster Abbey and the Welsh parliament – had seen the Queen use a walking stick in public for the first time.

Sources indicated that was likely to become more common in view of her age.

Then on October 20 she suddenly cancelled a two-day visit to Northern Ireland house before she was due to fly out on the advice of the Medical Household.

Buckingham Palace said she had been told to rest and would be staying at Windsor, but the following day it emerged that she had been taken to hospital for undisclosed ‘preliminary investigations.

The transfer was conducted amid great secrecy, with staff even leaving her royal standard flying at Windsor which would normally be taken as an indication that she was there.


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge pictured in attendance at the Remembrance Sunday ceremony in London yesterday

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attend the service of Remembrance yesterday

Charles laid a wreath on behalf of the Queen at the Remembrance Sunday event yesterday as she was unable to attend

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge lays a wreath as he attends the annual service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph yesterday

The tests required her to stay in hospital overnight and she returned home the following lunchtime.

It was subsequently announced that she would have to cancel all official visits outside the castle but could continue to undertake ‘light, desk-based duties’ during this time.

She has indeed been seen on several video calls looking cheery, although definitely frailer than before.

She also recorded a video message to be played to leaders at the opening of Cop26, after being forced to cancel plans to fly to Scotland.

In early November, however, she was well enough to fly by helicopter to Sandringham for a long weekend on her private Norfolk estate, where she was seen being driven around by staff.

She has also been spotted driving her own estate car at Windsor.

But this latest set-back will do little to ease the nation’s anxiety over the much-loved monarch’s health, respected royal biographer Penny Junor said.

Prince William salutes veterans marching past on Horse Guards Parade during the Remembrance Sunday event yesterday

Dozens of wreaths were laid at the Cenotaph during the Remembrance Sunday ceremony held in Whitehall yesterday

SATURDAY — The Prince of Wales and Camilla led the family group, which also included Prince William, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, the Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, and the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra at the Festival of Remembrance on Saturday night

Ms Junor said: ‘It’s very sad for the Queen because this is the one event in the year that she really, really likes to be at. Remembering the war dead is a very, very important part for her annual calendar.

‘The public will be very sad and anxious to hear of yet another setback but clearly she must follow the advice and get herself well.’

She added: ‘It’s not surprising because she is 95 years old. We’re so used to seeing her out and about and looking years younger than she is that I think we’ve been lulled into thinking she can go on at this kind of pace forever.

‘Clearly she can’t. There comes a time in everybody’s life when they have to admit that they are getting older and can’t do the things that they perhaps want to do.

Suggesting it appeared to mark a new phase in the Queen’s reign, Ms Junor said that in her opinion, the public are likely to ‘see more of her on video and probably less of her in the flesh’.

She added: ‘They should keep her warm and tucked up at home and not exposing herself to the possibility of infections.’

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