Her Majesty’s historic but painful decision
ROBERT HARDMAN reveals why the Queen will now watch from the balcony after 65 years of laying a wreath at the Cenotaph
Buckingham Palace announced the Queen will watch service from the Foreign Office balcony
Decision is part of a gradual process of delegating regal responsibilities as she gets older
The 91-year-old monarch has been laying a wreath at the Cenotaph for 65 years
Throughout her 65-year reign, she has regarded it as her most sacred duty. But next month, for the first time, the Queen will attend Britain’s Remembrance Sunday commemorations as a spectator.
Buckingham Palace has announced that she will watch the traditional 11am service at the Cenotaph alongside the Duke of Edinburgh on a Foreign Office balcony while the Prince of Wales lays a wreath to the fallen on her behalf.
The decision is part of a gradual process of delegating certain regal responsibilities to the younger generations, mindful of the monarch’s advancing age. But this will be regarded as the most symbolic transfer of duties to date.
Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph is the day that combines so many aspects of the Queen’s great office – Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces, Head of the Commonwealth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
So her decision to be an observer rather than the central figure at the national service of remembrance will not have been taken lightly. Yet it will be regarded as an eminently sensible move, and one with a rather poignant footnote.
Despite announcing his retirement from public duties earlier this year, the Duke of Edinburgh was determined to be at the Cenotaph. However, at the age of 96, he had decided the time had come to watch from a balcony rather than be part of the parade. It was then that the Queen decided she would do the same, in order to stand with the Duke. She, therefore, asked the Prince of Wales to lay her wreath on behalf of the nation.
‘The Queen wants to be at the Duke’s side,’ said a Palace spokesman last night. The Duke’s wreath will be laid by an equerry.
The Prince of Wales has taken on a number of extra duties at the Queen’s request in recent years, particularly those involving long-distance travel and major Commonwealth events.
He and other members of the Royal Family now regularly undertake duties such as investitures on the Queen’s behalf as officials continue to adjust the pace of the monarch’s schedule.
No one in royal or military circles will fail to appreciate the magnitude of this decision, however. As the daughter, wife, mother and grandmother of members of the Armed Forces and someone whose formative years were shaped by war, the Queen regards Remembrance Sunday as the most important day in the calendar.
On the six occasions when she has not laid a wreath at the Cenotaph, she was either paying her respects at a Commonwealth war memorial in another part of the world or she was expecting a child. This will be the first time since succeeding to the throne that she has viewed the proceedings from the balcony where the late Queen Mother watched the service for the best part of a century.
The Queen is the only head of state in the world today who served in uniform during the Second World War.
She and the Duke are among the last and certainly the best-known members of that heroic generation still active in public life today. So their absence from the Whitehall line-up will, inevitably, be a source of sadness for many of those in the crowd and watching on television around the world. Yet anyone attending this occasion in recent years will have found themselves wondering how much longer it was reasonable to expect two nonagenarians to take part in this parade.
It was not the standing around in cold weather that was the issue. It was the fact that, having laid their wreaths, the Queen and the Duke were then expected to walk backwards and down the step from the Cenotaph to the road.
It might not sound a great challenge for a couple so familiar with every second of this unchanging event that they can recite every prayer – and every word of Oh God Our Help In Ages Past – without even glancing at the order of service. But the consequences of a single misplaced footstep at such a solemn moment – and on live television – were too ghastly to contemplate. At one point in last year’s service, the Queen did appear to lose her footing for a split-second. For the Duke, wreath-laying was not made any easier by the need to wear a sword with his uniform.
These will all have been factors in the Queen’s decision to ask the Prince of Wales to take her place next month.
Other elements of her weekend remain unchanged. She will still attend the Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on November 11, though it is not known whether the Duke will join her.
Less than two weeks later, the Queen and the Duke will celebrate the first platinum wedding anniversary in royal history.
Source: DAILYMAIL MAILONLINE
Tags: Queen Elizabeth II, Queen, Elizabeth II, Cenotaph, Road, Parade