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Queen to focus on attending four key events after pulling out of Maundy Service

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Queen still plans to attend a raft of Jubilee celebrations

Queen still plans to attend a raft of Jubilee celebrations (Image: Getty)

She has made it clear she intends if at all possible to fulfil one of her most important constitutional duties by attending the State Opening of Parliament to outline her Government’s legislative programme next month and has a number of other key engagements in her diary.

They include going to the Derby at Epsom, one of her biggest priorities – although she may attend that “privately”. 

She is also expected to make appearances at other events forming part of her official Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June such as Trooping the Colour, and a national service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral for her 70-year reign.

But every event will be assessed on the day and she will only make a final decision if she feels up to it because of the mobility problems she is experiencing. “The Queen doesn’t want to let people down.

She’ll attend events where she can,” one source said yesterday.

The pledge came after she pulled out yesterday of attending next Thursday’s Royal Maundy service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, only a few hundred yards from her apartments in the 950-year-old royal fortress that is now her main residence.

She has asked Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to step in for her for the first time, distributing Maundy money to 96 men and 96 women at the annual event which traces its origins to Medieval times.

It is understood she made the decision because she felt unable to commit to attending and, with the order of service being printed, she was keen for the arrangements to be confirmed to avoid any misunderstanding or the day to be overshadowed.

Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine and a longtime royal watcher, said: “There are 192 recipients. That is a lot of standing for someone of her age. It would be asking a lot of her so I’m not surprised.”

In the past two years the ceremony has not taken place because of Covid restrictions and the coins have been posted out to recipients.

The Queen has missed the Maundy service on four previous occasions in 1954, 1960, 1964, and 1970 when she was either away on tour or had recently given birth to Princes Andrew and Edward in the case of the middle two years.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall attend the official opening of the new Meta offices

Prince Charles and Camilla attend the official opening of the new Meta (Image: Getty)

It is the latest in a series of events she will miss this year after developing a mobility problem that makes it difficult for her to stay comfortable for any length of time.

And yet the Queen, who will mark the first anniversary, of Prince Philip’s death today (Saturday), is actually undertaking more engagements so far this year than she did last year.

She is leading the way as the Royal Family returns to almost pre-Covid levels of engagements.

In the first quarter of 2022 she completed 50 engagements, compared to 32 in the same period last year and 48 in 2020 when the pandemic hit towards the end of March of that year, analysis of the Court Circular commissioned by the Daily Express shows.

Part of the reason for that is that there were no ambassadors presenting her credentials to her at the start of last year and the Alpha variant of the virus led to a fresh wave of caution about the engagements she and other members of the family undertook.

But the data still suggests that the Queen has adapted, undertaking many more engagements by video links, to continue to be able to complete her official duties.

Patricia Treble, the Canadian journalist who compiled the analysis for this newspaper, said: “To keep with her famous belief that ‘I have to be seen to be believed’, she’s adapted to her new reality by turning some regal duties, such as meeting new diplomats, into video engagements and also by having people come to her rather than her visiting outside the confines of Windsor Castle.

“That way the Royal Household can keep issuing new images of the Queen without necessitating her to travel.”

Ms Treble added; ‘Yet appearances by the Queen outside palace walls are now extremely rare.

Of the 50 engagements that she undertook in the first quarter of 2022, only one was outside Windsor Castle or Sandringham: the memorial service of Prince Philip.”

Indeed aides have said that the Queen’s decision to invite workers from a Staffordshire pottery firm, Halcyon Days, to Windsor Castle last month to demonstrate their skills and products instead of her going to Staffordshire to tour the factory will serve as a template for some engagements in future.

The data shows that the current working members of the Royal Family as a whole are almost back to pre-pandemic volumes of engagements.

Their workload in the first quarter of 2022 increased by 58 per cent on the same period last year but they are still 14 per cent down on their 2019 tally – or 26 per cent down if the comparison includes Prince Andrew and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who have since stood down from official duties.

Ms Treble pointed to efforts to catch up on a backlog of engagements or investitures postponed in the pandemic and a return to foreign visits by the working royals. She said: “To be blunt, they are working more, which can be seen from the data.”

But she added: “I’m a bit surprised at how quickly the working members of the Royal Family have ramped up their duties at the start of this year, especially given that several members have contracted Covid -19 during those same three months.

‘It’s certainly a dramatic change from a year ago, when many engagements were virtual as vaccinations were just beginning amid huge numbers of Alpha variant cases.”

COMMENT BY INGRID SEWARD

The Queen will never let people down if she can possibly help it.

This duty was drummed into her by her grandmother, Queen Mary, when she was still a very young Princess Elizabeth.

For 70 years she has known how important it is for people to see her in person and have the opportunity of exchanging a few words with her.

But during the past six months it has been an uphill struggle.

Her mobility, as we have seen, is severely impaired. After a lifetime of excellent health, it is cruel to see her struggle.

The Queen always moved so quickly. It was one of her trademarks, like her handbag and her loyal team of corgis who used to clatter in her wake.

Now she is confined to barracks instead of going out in order to please others by being visible. It is what she has always said her job is about. To see and be seen.

She dislikes appearing excessively frail almost as much as she dislikes letting people down.

She belongs to the generation that has always refused to give in and we can all imagine her telling off the bits of her body that refuse to work for her.

That is why she is pulling out of the Maundy Service. She feels – quite rightly – it is better to make the decision now rather than disappoint people at the very last minute.

If it had not caused so much controversy the Queen may have made the choice to have the strong arm of the Duke of York steadying her, but she knows that is sadly impossible.

Buckingham Palace insists she will still be attending Platinum Jubilee events and even the State Opening of Parliament, but the service on April 14, which involves meet and greet and the distribution of Maundy money, is too much.

We must not expect too much of our beloved Queen.

On April 21 she celebrates her 96th birthday. May there be many more.

INGRID SEWARD IS THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, MAJESTY MAGAZINE.



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