The Queen was last night ‘reluctantly’ under doctor’s orders to rest after undertaking 19 official engagements since the start of the month.
Although royal aides stressed that there was no cause for alarm about the 95-year-old monarch’s health, they were forced to cancel a two-day visit to Northern Ireland at the 11th hour yesterday.
The Daily Mail understands that the Queen’s engagements were only called off in the morning, hours before she was due to arrive by plane.
The decision was so last minute that palace staff were already in Belfast awaiting her arrival.
October 7: Starting Commonwealth Games baton relay at Buckingham Palace
October 10: On her way to a service at the Royal Chapel, Windsor
October 12: Royal British Legion’s centenary service
Buckingham Palace said the sovereign was in ‘good spirits’ but it is believed her doctor ordered her to rest after a slew of work commitments this month.
Including her return from Balmoral, where she spent the summer, the Queen has travelled nearly 1,000 miles since the start of October. Last week, she was forced to start using a walking stick in public for the first time, a stark reminder of her advancing years.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: ‘The Queen has reluctantly accepted medical advice to rest for the next few days. Her Majesty is in good spirits and is disappointed that she will no longer be able to visit Northern Ireland. The Queen sends her warmest good wishes to the people of Northern Ireland, and looks forward to visiting in the future.’
Royal sources told the Mail there was no cause for concern, and stressed that the decision was made purely as a ‘precautionary’ measure.
There was no suggestion that the Queen had fallen ill and it was understood that her decision was not linked to Covid. It is understood she has received her booster jab.
October 13: Giving pianist Imogen Cooper The Queen’s Medal for Music
October 14: At the opening ceremony of the Welsh Parliament in Cardiff
October 16: Being inducted into the British Champions Series Hall of Fame at Ascot racecourse
But the monarch, who will celebrate her Platinum Jubilee next year, continues to stoically meet hundreds of work commitments each year – 30 years after most people have retired – and does suffer from recurrent back pain.
On Tuesday she hosted a summit for global investors and politicians at Windsor Castle, standing and shaking hands for around 40 minutes, the Mail was told.
A source said she was on ‘sparkling form’, welcoming guests including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and US presidential envoy John Kerry, telling Mr Kerry: ‘I saw you on telly the other night doing [Prince] William’s Earthshot Prize thing.’
As part of her planned trip to Northern Ireland, she had been expected to stay at Hillsborough Castle and undertake a series of public engagements there yesterday, staying overnight to attend a service to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland today.
It is highly unusual that such a major engagement would be cancelled at the last minute, suggesting staff are taking no chances with the head of state’s health, even if it is just precautionary.
Royal commentator Joe Little said the Queen’s age meant last-minute cancellations might become more frequent. The managing editor of Majesty magazine said: ‘When you get to the age of 95 and you have a role such as the Queen has, there is an inevitability about last-minute cancellations. Unfortunately, I think this is just how it’s going to have to be from time to time.’
He added: ‘Mentally, the Queen is pin-sharp as ever and when she makes speeches she speaks well. Every now and again there will be this reminder that she is 95 and she can’t do what was expected of her ten, 20 years ago.’
October 19: She receives EU Ambassador Joao de Almeida and colleague Ana Jara de Carvalho via videolink from Windsor Castle
October 19: Greeting guests with PM Boris Johnson at a reception for the Global Investment Summit
Mr Little said he believed the Queen would carry out fewer public engagements to mark her Platinum Jubilee than she did for her Diamond Jubilee.
And he said he did not believe she would agree to allow Charles to take over duties as a prince regent unless there was a ‘sharp deterioration’ in her health.
The Queen is expected to rest at Windsor Castle and aides said there were no plans to cancel her attendance at events for the UN climate summit in Glasgow at the end of this month.
She is likely to continue to hold private meetings at Windsor Castle next week but has no public engagements.
Her doctor’s advice will strengthen calls for her and her advisers to reconsider the number of engagements she undertakes. She has made schedule ‘tweaks’ and has handed over more arduous public duties such as investitures to other senior royals.
But there are some duties that only the reigning monarch can conduct. In recent weeks she has travelled to Holyrood and Cardiff to attend the opening of the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments, taken part in a tree planting at Balmoral and launched the Commonwealth Games baton relay at Buckingham Palace.
Last week she used a walking stick for the first time at a public event – at a service for the centenary of the Royal British Legion. She has also taken part in several audiences at Windsor.
A royal source said: ‘With her Platinum Jubilee on the horizon, many are thinking that perhaps her private office needs to look at the diary again.’
Another source said: ‘No one is saying that she should take a step back, but perhaps another slight step to one side might be in order.’