(London) Queen Elizabeth II announced on Friday evening that she would not attend a religious service in London on Monday at Westminster Abbey, which was to mark her first major outing after several months of fragile health, and three weeks after catching COVID-19.
Some 1,500 people are expected there, as part of the annual Commonwealth Day, to which the sovereign, who will be 96 years old in April, is very attached.
“The Queen has asked the Prince of Wales to represent Her Majesty in Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on Monday,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement, adding that the Queen “will pursue other scheduled engagements, including in-person engagements in the coming week.” The palace gave no reason for the cancellation.
For months, the appearances of the sovereign have become rare. After spending a night in the hospital in October, for “preliminary examinations” on which no details were ever given, the sovereign, who celebrated her 70th year of reign in February, limited herself to ” light duties” at Windsor Castle, on the advice of his doctors.
The cancellation announced on Friday, guaranteed to raise questions about his health, is in addition to that of a diplomatic reception on March 2, which was to be his first major engagement since October.
The queen must also attend on March 29 at Westminster Abbey a ceremony in memory of Prince Philip, her husband who died last April.
The palace announced on February 20 that she had contracted COVID-19, citing “mild symptoms.”
Always stoic, the sovereign, visibly more frail in recent months, has since resumed some light activities, receiving a handful of ambassadors by videoconference at Windsor Castle where she has lived since the pandemic, for credentials.
Her son Prince Charles said in early March that the world’s oldest incumbent monarch was “much better now.”
On March 7, the Sovereign received in person Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whom she has known since he was a child.
“She was more insightful than ever and very interested in what’s going on,” he said after the encounter, photos of which showed a relaxed and smiling queen.
But the ceremony scheduled for Monday afternoon as part of the annual Commonwealth Day, which was to be broadcast live on television, was of another dimension, with 1,500 people expected, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a crowd politicians, ambassadors and dignitaries of the Commonwealth, and several members of the royal family including Prince Charles, heir to the Crown.
The Queen is very attached to the Commonwealth, an association of 54 countries, including 15 kingdoms of which she is the sovereign.
Known for her strong health, she was seen using a cane for the first time on October 12. After her brief hospitalization, she had canceled several commitments including a trip to the climate conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November. The palace then explained that she had back pain, to explain another last-minute cancellation a few days later.
The sovereign confided last month that she had mobility problems. “As you can see, I can’t move,” she said, showing her left leg, receiving two soldiers.
The church service in Westminster – with parade of flags and a musical piece specially composed for his 70 years of reign (Platinum Jubilee) – had not taken place last year due to the pandemic of COVID-19.
In March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, this ceremony was the last official engagement of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, before they left to live in California, freeing themselves from their royal commitments.
The atmosphere had been described as icy between the couple and Prince William – brother of Prince Harry – and his wife Kate.
Four days of festivities are also planned in June to celebrate his platinum jubilee, with a military parade in London, giant picnics, a historical re-enactment of his 70-year reign, and a concert at Buckingham Palace.