Queen Elizabeth II has pulled out of the Queen’s Speech, letting Prince Charles do it for her and raising the prospect of stepping back as sovereign.
The 96-year-old is Britain’s longest reigning monarch in history and is just over two years short of being the world monarch.
However, the palace cited “episodic mobility issues” as they announced she would not be able to make a key symbolic commitment in her role as sovereign.
Elizabeth will not read the Queen’s Speech this year when Parliament officially opens on May 10, calling on her eldest son Charles to step in and read it on her behalf.
Prince Charles will be joined by Prince William as the first and second rows to the throne show the world what the future of royalty looks like.
The move sparked suggestions Britain could slide into a de facto “regency” when the Prince of Wales succeeds the monarch on health grounds.
Strikingly, the discussion seems to be taking place between both monarchists and Republicans, although the former are more sympathetic than the latter.
Last but not least, speculation is fueled by the fact that the Regency Act 1937 created the mechanism by which Prince Charles was able to succeed the Queen.
A statement from Buckingham Palace read: “The Queen continues to experience episodic mobility issues and, in consultation with her doctors, has reluctantly decided that she will not attend the State Opening of Parliament tomorrow.
“At Her Majesty’s request and with the agreement of the relevant authorities, the Prince of Wales will read the Queen’s Speech on behalf of Her Majesty, also in the presence of the Duke of Cambridge.”
The sun ran the headline “Crown…and Out”, while the front page of the pro-royal Daily mail asked, “Is Queen’s absence today the first step towards a Charles Regency?”
Robert Hardman, author of queen of our timewritten in the To post“Inevitably, this historic moment will be seen by many as the first step towards a regency, the moment when a regent is appointed in the event that a monarch steps down due to ‘infirmity of mind or body.’ The comparison is obvious.
“There will be those who point out, perfectly correctly, that when this last happened the Prince of Wales had been officially installed as Prince Regent since 1810, following the gradual mental decline of his father, George III.
“So is history repeating itself? It must be emphasized that this is absolutely not what is happening today.”
Hardman pointed to the fact that the operation to replace Charles with Elizabeth uses a different section of the Regency Act to that used in the case of George III and has been used before, including by Queen Victoria.
Elizabeth herself has also skipped the official opening of Parliament twice before when she was pregnant, however, this will be the first time Prince Charles has read the speech on her behalf.
It also comes after months of health issues that resulted in so many canceled tours and engagements that it became difficult to keep track of them.
Anti-monarchy campaign group Republic wrote on Twitter: “It’s time to be honest about the Queen’s position. What is increasingly clear is that she is no longer able to perform most of the functions of his role.
“Rather than honesty, we get the repeated assertion that she has ‘periodic mobility’ issues, followed by promises that she will attend events from which she will later withdraw.
“It would be better for everyone involved, including the British people, if we had an honest account of the Queen’s health. There is no shame in admitting to being too frail to continue.
“There is no shame in saying that you would rather not continue. There is a problem with the dishonest and misleading claims of faceless officials and the son of the head of state who intervenes while she remains head of State.”
However, Republic’s intervention may underscore just how high the stakes are in Elizabeth’s decision about her future.
Graham Smith, chief executive of the organization, previously said Newsweek that when Prince Charles takes power, he expects King Charles’ reign to precipitate the collapse of the monarchy in countries around the world that currently have the Queen as head of state.
Elizabeth is adored by British audiences, with a net approval rating of +66 according to recent YouGov data, and around the world.
For now, however, the Queen has her reign to celebrate, 70 years in fact, as she celebrates her four-day Platinum Jubilee in early June.
There will be celebrations across the country, a show for 10,000 people, a concert at the palace and, among officials, hopes the Queen’s health will hold up so she appears in person for as long as possible.
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