Analysis: This might be the start of a new phase for the Queen
A version of this story appeared in the October 22 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on the royal family, what they are up to in public and what’s happening behind palace walls. Sign up here.
London (CNN)It’s rare for the Queen to scrap an engagement so when she does, the immediate question for many here in Britain is: “How serious is it?”
On Wednesday Elizabeth II made a last-minute call to cancel a trip to Northern Ireland to mark 100 years since the partition of the island of Ireland.
The palace has moved quickly to soothe our worries over the monarch’s health. Fears were immediately put to rest when a source close to the palace told CNN she was in “good spirits” and pointed us towards images from the day before when the Queen hosted a reception for business leaders including Bill Gates at Windsor.
A source told CNN that HM was resting at Windsor Castle.
On Thursday night though, British tabloid newspaper “The Sun” reported she had spent the night in hospital and the palace was forced to confirm that was true.
“Following medical advice to rest for a few days, The Queen attended hospital on Wednesday afternoon for some preliminary investigations, returning to Windsor Castle at lunchtime today, and remains in good spirits,” a palace spokesperson said in a statement.
A source with Buckingham Palace told CNN the overnight stay was for practical reasons and wasn’t announced at the time as the sovereign is entitled to medical privacy. By Thursday afternoon she was back at her desk undertaking light duties, we were told. And on Friday morning we were told again by a royal source that the Queen was continuing to rest at Windsor.
The palace is trying to manage the information it releases, to prevent people becoming overly concerned but some may ask if they are being told the whole truth.
One other question many are asking is whether the 95-year-old monarch is overdoing it work wise, with all the public engagements and duties she performs.
There’s no question the Queen remains unequivocally devoted to her work, but we were also reminded of her relentless approach to her duties despite her advancing age. Earlier this week, she declined an honor of being named “Oldie of the Year” by a British magazine, saying she didn’t meet “the relevant criteria.” She “politely but firmly” declined the award through her assistant private secretary with “warmest best wishes.”
“Her Majesty believes you are as old as you feel, as such The Queen does not believe she meets the relevant criteria to be able to accept, and hopes you will find a more worthy recipient,” Tom Laing-Baker said in a letter.
And then it was just last week that we highlighted the Queen’s decision to use a walking stick in public for the first time “for comfort.”
Tracking the monarch’s movements since returning from Scotland, where she traditionally spends her summers, the Queen attended the opening of the Scottish parliament on October 2 before heading south to Windsor. In the last couple weeks, she’s attended a variety of engagements and investitures there and in London, as well as heading to Cardiff to participate in the opening ceremony of the Welsh parliament. All of this illustrates how the Queen doesn’t appear to be slowing down when it comes to her ceremonial responsibilities — even in her 96th year.
Elizabeth is not heading overseas for long-haul tours these days; and has handed off some responsibilities to other family members, but she’s still traveling extensively across the UK. Our most conservative estimate has the Queen clocking over 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) from October 1 through to October 19. That’s a lot for any senior citizen.
A busy month for the monarch
Since October 1, Elizabeth II has traveled the length and breadth of the United Kingdom for a variety of engagements.
Source: Court Circular/Royal.uk
Let’s also take a closer look at that initial palace statement of the abandoned Northern Ireland visit, with its rather telling phrasing. It said the Queen had “reluctantly accepted” medical advice to rest a few days. In other words, she wanted to carry on but has effectively been ordered to stay home by the royal doctor.
The Queen has actually stripped back a number of commitments to focus on her core constitutional duties as Head of State, such as the opening of parliaments and audiences with the Prime Minister and new ambassadors to the UK.
If she were to retain the Crown but start handing over more of the ceremonial part of the job to her son Prince Charles, it would start feeling like a regency. And the Queen has never suggested there would ever be any abdication of her role. She committed to life-long service in her 20s and has reiterated this at every jubilee celebration.
In her golden years, there may well come a point when she is physically unable to appear in person at every event she feels she must attend. Time will tell how she chooses to manage her busy diary. This might be the start of a new and testing phase for Elizabeth which she may be reflecting on as she is involuntarily holed up in Windsor Castle over the next few days.
(With reporting from CNN’s David Wilkinson)
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
Meghan urges Schumer and Pelosi to pass federal paid family leave.
The Duchess of Sussex is calling on US Congressional Democratic leaders to pass federal paid family and medical leave as negotiations continue on the Biden administration’s social safety net and infrastructure package. “Paid leave should be a national right, rather than a patchwork option limited to those whose employers have policies in place, or those who live in one of the few states where a leave program exists,” Meghan wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, published Wednesday by the Paid Leave for All organization. While making her arguments, the Duchess pulled from her own experiences as a parent, acknowledging her privilege in being able to care for newborn Lilibet without having to make “impossible choices about childcare, work, and medical care that so many have to make every single day.” She added: “No family should have to choose between earning a living and having the freedom to take care of their child.” Read the full story here.
Duchess of Cambridge says addiction can “happen to any of us.”
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, launched a new awareness campaign in London on Tuesday. In her role as patron of the Forward Trust organization, she gave a speech about addressing addiction as a “serious mental health condition.” She said: “Addiction is not a choice. No one chooses to become an addict. But it can happen to any one of us. None of us are immune.” The Duchess was joined by popular UK TV presenters Ant and Dec to start the “Taking Action on Addiction” campaign, which wants to “reframe existing perceptions of addiction and build awareness of the causes and nature of addiction.” She also highlighted the toll the pandemic has taken on families and children hit by addiction issues. Get more on this story here.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
The internet is abuzz with speculation over whether the Cambridges might be heading to the US next year after Prince William announced he was taking his Earthshot eco prize stateside during the ceremony last weekend. At this point, it doesn’t appear to be anything more than wishful thinking so we’ll have to put up a “watch this space” sign. But in the meantime, we wanted to flag these stunning shots from Getty royal photographer Chris Jackson, who was behind the scenes at the glittering event on Sunday night. In a series of posts on Instagram, Jackson discussed the “fantastic opportunity” to be a fly on the wall. “It was special to witness the passion and energy that went into this event from close quarters,” he wrote.
DID YOU KNOW?
Duke of Sussex’s support pushed military expedition on.
It was postponed twice due to the pandemic, but an expedition team backed by the Duke of Sussex completed a 249-mile fundraising trek in the UK this week. Walking With The Wounded, a British charity for veterans, previously announced that the six-man squad who were set to undertake the Grenadier Walk of Oman expedition would “reimagine” the journey in the UK in mid-October after continued Covid uncertainty made the logistics too difficult to orchestrate. Instead of heading to the desert, the team set off from Pen y Fan, the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales to reach the finish line at the Anglo Omani Society in London.
Speaking to CNN as the expedition reached its conclusion on Thursday, Ben Gallagher, a sergeant who suffered severe blast injuries to his upper torso and arms in January 2019, revealed the journey — the equivalent of almost 10 marathons — had given him an opportunity to connect with other veterans and provide focus and a sense of direction as he grappled with the transition from 16 years in the military. “Being together as a group of injured veterans and having that commonality, that comradeship, humor and humility that often serving military people share is what gets you through,” he said.
Ash Winter, who served for 14 years in the Queen’s Royal Hussars as a Challenger II tank crewman, hailed Prince Harry’s support as “amazing.” The veteran, who was diagnosed with keratoconus — an eye disease resulting in loss of vision during his service, told CNN: “He supported Walking with the Wounded since day one. In 2010 he went to the North Pole with them, and he’s been a patron of this expedition. He’s been sending, you know, best wishes, goodwill wishes to us throughout the whole of the unfortunate two-year process of not being able to go to Oman. It’s been really, really supportive having him on board as a patron.”
The charity revealed that Harry phoned the team on the trek’s penultimate day to offer up some words of wisdom. “Guys just remember, you have got to hold on to this moment, you have got to hold onto this feeling. Because it doesn’t matter where you walk, or what you are doing. When inevitably we all end up feeling down, a little bit dark, in the weeks, months and years to come, you will remember back to this. Lean on this experience to pick yourselves up,” he said during the phone call.
(Reporting by CNN’s Robert Iddiols and Li-Lian Ahlskog Hou)
WHAT YOU SAID
Thanks for the many emails we received in response to our new “Have your say” feature. We were overwhelmed with responses — so bear with us as we try to reply to as many as we can.
In the meantime, we’ve featured a few of your thoughts further down in the newsletter. Remember, you can send us your views (and any other burning questions you’d like us to tackle) to [email protected]. Please include your name and where you’re writing from.
Last week we asked you: Is William right to criticize the billionaire space race? Royal News readers were pretty evenly split on the Prince’s position with many saying he was “absolutely right,” while others carefully argued for humanity’s continued race towards the stars. Here’s a selection of what you had to say:
Leslie wanted to point out, as a few others did, that William’s recent remarks “reeks of the hypocrisy of generationally wealthy, landed gentry.” She argued that the royals are free to use their inherited wealth as they please, so the rest of the earth’s population should have a right to use their resources how they want, including for recreation and discovery. “The Prince seems to assert that all of the world’s climate problems need to be solved before further global or off-world exploration can take place. Perhaps he could cast his mind back to the history of the British Empire, which managed to spread its tentacles over much of the earth while systematically abusing indigenous populations and creating long-lasting cultural and environmental harm. He might find that his family’s own heritage belies a determination to build empires at the expense of resolving contemporary issues,” she said. “Prince William’s giving out environmental prizes is great. It does not, however, equal the benefit to humanity that has accrued from scientific advances achieved due to space travel and scientific exploration generally.”
Fawn had a slightly different take, writing that she thought “William was right to criticize the billionaires because it seemed like a publicity stunt” but also said actor William Shatner’s space adventure “could bring the right sort of publicity” about going into space. She explained: “Hopefully that means people who are important in the climate change controversy would have incentive to show the world how interconnected space and Earth actually are.”
Leon from Durban, South Africa reflected on how fatherhood has unquestionably had an effect on Prince William’s outlook. He wrote in to say: “William is a young man and a father, and like many of his age is concerned about his children’s future. I am 84 years old, and have always been fascinated with the exploration of space, but the world is in a precarious situation, and major reforms are extremely urgent to save our future. Apart from the essentials of communication satellites, all other major non-essential space work should be put on hold until the climate issue has been resolved.” He continued that world leaders should be focusing their efforts to resolve the climate crisis and “help those who are already starving and dying because of it.”
(Editor’s note: Some responses have been edited for length.)
We’re reaching the halfway point of CNN’s “Diana” series already with episode 3 set to air this Sunday from 9 p.m. ET/PT. This week’s ep gets into “Di-Mania” exploring how the Princess of Wales’ global stardom created tension with her husband and as the rift between them deepened, the royal marriage began to unravel.
One of our Royal News readers, Johnson in Kenya, dropped us a note recently to ask us when the “Diana” series would be available internationally. Unfortunately, at the moment it’s only available to viewers in the US and Canada but it’s worth signing up to Keep Watching — a members-only community which is the best way we can think of to get the latest on all of CNN’s series and films.
Need a little more incentive? Have a watch of a clip from last week’s episode below.
Lastly, a heads up Royal News readers: a few weeks ago, we asked you to weigh in on whether you’d like us to mention other families beyond the Windsors (from time to time) in our newsletter. A big thank you to the folks who wrote in. Your responses were pretty strongly in favor of the idea, so we’ll look to keep you posted on what other royals from around the globe are up to in future editions.
With that in mind, we’re thinking about experimenting with a special edition next week around Princess Mako of Japan’s upcoming nuptials. As always, email us any feedback to [email protected].
–Max & Lauren