There was renewed speculation over Queen Elizabeth’s health Monday after it was revealed that a traditional public welcoming ceremony, usually held outside Balmoral Castle to mark the start of the queen’s summer holidays in Scotland, will this year take place behind closed doors.
The event, which usually sees the queen inspect a guard of honor at the gates of Balmoral Castle, will now take place “privately within the grounds of Balmoral” a royal source told The Daily Beast.
Last year, the event involved the queen inspecting a guard of honour, and meeting a tiny Shetland pony which is the official mascot of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The ceremony is typically seen as marking the beginning of her summer holidays in Scotland, where she usually stays until October. This year, the event will be held privately instead.
The designation of the event as private means that the queen, who has been suffering from “episodic mobility problems” according to her aides, will not be exposed to the scrutiny of TV cameras, photographers, media or the public.
There are, as ever, two ways of looking at this.
One is to say that as the queen progresses through her 97th year, she should be saluted for her devotion to duty and the extraordinary schedule of events and activities, even in slightly modified form, that she does maintain.
The contrary view is that appearing in public is one of the most important and foundational responsibilities of her job. It is the queen herself, after all, who used to quip, “I have to be seen to be believed.”
This line of thinking concludes that if she cannot perform basic duties, such as attending church services and inspecting the troops, there is an argument that a regency, or even a full abdication, ushering in the reign of King Charles, needs to be established post-haste.
The queen’s staff abhor even the merest suggestion of Her Majesty stepping down, and the queen herself was keen to emphasise the point she is going nowhere at her jubilee, saying in a message: “My heart has been with you all; and I remain committed to serving you to the best of my ability, supported by my family.”
The palace say that there is no question of the queen standing down, and it is only common sense that adaptations and adjustments for “comfort” will be made to her schedule to allow for her to continue to attend as many events as possible.
And if anyone thought that the queen was preparing to drift into “retirement” in Balmoral she has made it very clear that that is not the case by letting it be known that she plans to travel to England in September, when Boris Johnson is due to step down as prime minister and his successor is appointed, to carry out the formal duty of asking and inviting the new prime minister to form a government.
It is unusual for the queen to disrupt her Balmoral break, and her determination to travel to England to appoint a new prime minister seems to be a clear effort to signal that she is not ready to be written off yet.