Prince Charles has had to replace the Queen in a traditional ceremony after she decided she would be unable to climb a steep flight of stairs.
The 88-year-old monarch was due to take part in an ancient installation ceremony for knights of the Order of the Bath at London’s Westminster Abbey, but aides decided that she should not go ahead with the part of the ceremony that involved climbing a short flight of steps while dressed in heavy robes.
This is the latest example of the Queen slightly scaling back her duties, although royal watchers have been impressed at the amount of engagements still performed by the monarch, given her advanced age.
This time last year, Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen would be giving up long-haul travel due to her age, but insisted that she would not scale back her workload.
During a visit to Rome last month, the Queen was unable to visit a part of the Pope’s Vatican residence due to the number of steps she would have had to climb.
According to BBC News, today’s ceremony, at which new members of the Order of the Bath are installed, takes place only once every eight years. The Order takes its name from an elaborate medieval ceremony where newly created knights were bathed to symbolise purity. It is the fourth most senior order of chivalry in the UK.
Although the monarch remains in robust health, any evidence of her being unable to perform a task that she previous could generates heavy media scrutiny, and raises the possibility of Prince Charles, who will become King upon his mother’s death, taking a more prominent role in royal events.
Although his popularity has improved since the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, his ratings are still far behind those of his mother, who is now in the 63rd year of her reign.
When Charles inherits the throne, some worry that his unpopularity may threaten the future of the monarchy, yet his son and heir, Prince William, is still highly popular. A recent visit to Australia by Prince William and his wife was so popular that it was deemed to have killed off republicanism in the country for a generation.
With the arrival of a son, Prince George, last year, the royal line of succession looks assured for rest of this century at least.