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Expect the Queen to perform more virtual duties as other royals step up

By Caroline Davies
The Queen and Prince Charles in 2009
The Queen and Prince Charles in 2009. The Prince of Wales is standing in for his mother at an increasing number of royal engagements. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

The Queen is likely to perform more virtual engagements and any future official physical engagements will continue to be jointly diaried with other members of the royal family as part of ongoing adjustments due to her “episodic mobility problems”.

While she will continue to perform her constitutional role as head of state, her role as head of nation, which is not part of her formal constitutional duties, is increasingly being shared among other senior royals.

The state opening of parliament, at which she authorised Prince Charles and Prince William to deputise for her this week, is the only head of state engagement so far that she has been unable to fulfil in recent years as her age catches up with the 96-year-old monarch.

But sources said she had no reason to relinquish more head of state duties, which as sovereign include the appointment of the prime minister, approval of parliamentary legislation, approval of official appointments and approval of secondary legislation as head of the privy council.

The only one she has been forced to delegate, through the issuing of a letters patent, is the state opening because it requires a physical appearance. But all the others can be performed virtually if needed, and she has been doing this for some time now, according to insiders.

On Wednesday she attended privy council virtually; she is still receiving government “red boxes” and greeting ambassadors virtually; and on Monday she received via video link the Australians of the year, introduced by the Australian governor general, David Hurley.

Her diary as head of nation had definitely “flexed”, said one source. It is as head of nation that she makes her Christmas broadcast, sends messages of congratulation on national achievements, and sends messages of condolence at times of national, international and Commonwealth crisis.

But several such events also include physical appearances, such as trooping the colour, Garter Day, Royal Ascot and garden parties, as well as visits to charities and patronages. She did appear at the Royal Windsor horse show on Friday to watch her animals take to the parade ring.

The Queen has not carried out any investitures since the Covid pandemic began, except for that of Captain Sir Tom Moore, whom she knighted in a unique ceremony at Windsor Castle. Investitures are now regularly conducted by Prince Charles, Prince William and Princess Anne.

It has already been announced she will not be attending this summer’s garden parties, and Prince Charles stood in for her at the first of this year’s on Wednesday. Charles had already stepped in to represent her at the traditional coin-giving ceremony known as the Maundy service, which she missed for the first time in April.

Diaries between Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace have been and are being more closely coordinated than before to make sure another royal is at head of nation events if needed, so that if it is decided at the 11th hour the Queen will not attend, another royal will be there.

While it is not yet known which events over the platinum jubilee weekend she will attend, it is hoped she will at least appear on Buckingham Palace balcony following trooping the colour on 2 June and at the St Paul’s Cathedral service of thanksgiving on 3 June.

It is also hoped she will be at the Royal Windsor horse show’s jubilee “Gallop Through History” event on Sunday, which will reportedly feature 10 of her 12 great-grandchildren in horse-drawn carriages, including the Cambridges’ three children George, Charlotte and Louis.

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Dive Deeper:
Smiling Queen arrives at Royal Windsor Horse Show
The 96-year-old chatted with officials as she was driven on to the showground.
Queen makes unexpected appearance at Royal Windsor Horse Show
The Queen has recently taken a step back from in-person events due to mobility issues
George, Charlotte and Louis expected to make a special appearance tomorrow for the Queen
It is thought that Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis will take part in a carriage ride in the…
Queen holds Privy Council – but no call with PM after Johnson reschedules
The monarch, who is staying at Windsor Castle, met virtually with Privy Counsellors on Wednesday – a day after missing…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Charles and Camilla brave rain to step in for Queen at first garden party in three years
Prince Charles was joined by wife Camilla and his sister Princess Anne as he hosted the first garden party at…
Beaming Queen arrives at Royal Windsor Horse Show amid health fears
The Queen has paid a visit to the Royal Windsor Horse Show, which takes place close to her home of…
Get all your news in one place