There has been confusion surrounding the Queen’s illness after her unexpected hospital stay, but now significant plans have been put in place.
In the hours and days after Diana, the Princess of Wales was killed in Paris in 1997, one of the biggest sources of public anger towards the Queen centered on the royal standard, the flag that flies every time that His Majesty is in residence in one of his palaces.
When Diana died, the Queen was at Balmoral in Scotland, so no flag was flown above Buckingham Palace. In the feverish days following the princess’s death, the palace categorically refused to make any sort of concession to the immense, vast public outpouring of grief and to make the symbolic gesture of lowering a flag of some variety in London. .
An enthusiastic Britain was outraged.
“Where is our queen?” Where is his flag? The sun bellowed from the first page.
Finally, a workaround was agreed: the Union Jack would be put at half mast during his funeral.
However, today it would appear that when it comes to this pesky royal standard there is some leeway and the historic flag played a role in the palace courtiers pulling wool over the press and eyes from the public last week during the Queen’s recent health scare.
See, last Wednesday, just hours after the 95-year-old hosted 120 business leaders in Windsor for a reception, it was announced that she would be withdrawing from a planned two-day tour of Northern Ireland. The monarch, a palace spokesman said, had “reluctantly accepted medical advice to rest for the next few days.”
For the press, the Queen rose in Windsor. The royal standard was, after all, always high above his favorite castle.
Only, it turns out that on Wednesday evening, Her Majesty had in fact been taken to King Edward VII Hospital in London for what the palace later referred to as “preliminary inquiries”, where she spent the night, a fact which only appeared when The sun announced the news the next day. (It was the first time she had been hospitalized in eight years and then it was only overnight and with an upset stomach.)
The palace attendants had been caught less in a lie than in very neat tap dancing around the truth.
While in Diana’s case they had clung firmly to protocol, now they had let the standard continue to fly over the millennial stronghold where Her Majesty has locked herself since the start of the pandemic, even though she was in fact more than 40 kilometers from London.
Talk about a furphy on a flagpole.
The fallout from both the evasive maneuvers by courtiers and the shock of the Queen’s possible deterioration in health dominated the British press over the weekend.
While Her Majesty may be back at her weekend hole, last week’s drama would have forced a major overhaul of plans for the future, with a proposal in the works that will see a very noticeable change in people. public appearances of the monarch.
According to UK Telegraph, the palace apparatchiks have decided that from now on, the Queen will always be accompanied by one of her children or grandchildren on all her future engagements, ensuring that if health concerns force her to step aside by the 11th hour, the palace won t let the public waving Union Jack not be disappointed.
(As royal historian Hugo Vickers put it: “The problem is, the Queen doesn’t want to disappoint people. She can say no to people, but overall she doesn’t.” )
A source close to William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge told the Telegraph: âIf there is a way for them to support His Majesty in his commitments, they will. They are both eager to provide as much support as possible.
Ten points for enthusiasm and all that, but putting this new model into practice won’t be a simple or easy task to plan.
While on paper this new arrangement looks perfectly reasonable, the reality is that the Royal Family are in the midst of a historic staffing issue. By that I don’t mean finding the real army of cleaners, press secretaries, footmen and gardeners to trim the hedges with nail scissors, but real HRHs who can put their shoulder to the royal wheel .
Over the past two years, the House of Windsor has lost 30% of its senior members due to Prince Andrew’s humiliating downfall and forced exile from public life and the abrupt resignation of Harry and Meghan, the Duke and the Duchess of Sussex. (I’m not counting the Duke of Kent, Princess Alexandra or The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester who are also active members of the Royal Family here, as although diligent and loyal Windsor infantrymen, could you pick one? among a -up line of septuagenarian toffs?)
In 2019, the last year that Harry, Meghan and Andrew were still officially on the books, they landed a total of 558 engagements, both in the UK and abroad.
Likewise, Harry’s former honorary positions as Captain General of the Royal Marines, Chief Commodore, Small Ships and Diving and Honorary Air Commander of the Royal Air Force Honnington are currently vacant. The same goes for the posts of President and Vice-President of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust and the sponsorships of the Royal National Theater and the Association of Commonwealth Universities must be filled.
It was left to the seven active royals still on the books to not only try to recoup some of that slack, but also to deal with the reputational damage that the Andrew and Sussex situations caused. like the monarchy. .
Her time in the hospital shed light on the Queen’s demanding workload.
Since October 1, the Queen has held 13 separate audiences or meetings, opened the Parliaments of Scotland and Wales, held a number of private meetings and attended seven major events, including hosting this reception in Windsor . (According to Times, “Before the arrival of her guests, the Queen and her closest associates had agreed on a secret sign to take her away from the reception if she felt she was fading, but the coded signal was not needed. . “)
All of this she did while religiously browsing through the daily flow of government documents that arrive daily through the official red box.
Next week, she will travel to Glasgow for the world climate conference, COP26, where she is expected to deliver a speech.
As royal author Penny Junor pointed out over the weekend: âI wonder if this is in reaction to the monarchy being in a questionable state, with Prince Andrew then Harry and Meghan pulling back and shooting at it. It is his effort to prove that the monarchy thrives and that there is no problem at the top. “
As a source close to the Queen told the Times: “She’s exhausted.”
(It’s not all the work that got us here with royal sources also telling the Times she enjoys “a constant stream of lunches and dinners with her family and friends because the Queen doesn’t want to dine alone” and she always likes to stay up late watching TV.)
Her Majesty’s Private Secretary Sir Edward Young is now under pressure to cut his boss’s relatively busy schedule and that according to the Mail on Sunday, the palace is currently working on the âmainâ events it needs to focus on over the next year.
This will only make the royal staff crisis more and more pronounced and the palace has a very aging workforce. The average age of all active HRH groups still active is 66 years. As of William’s birthday in June of next year, all active members of the Royal Family will be over 40.
In fact, of the Queen’s six adult grandchildren, the Duke of Cambridge is the only one to hold official office. Compare that to the situation of her grandfather, King Georg V. Seven of her nine grandchildren would continue to work for the crown, or 77 percent. For Her Majesty, the same figure is 16%.
Prince Charles may have long married a lean version of the royal family, one not swollen by hordes of titled hangers, but the current situation is not so much ‘thin’ as it is worrying about malnutrition.
Sadly, this situation begs the question of whether we will see Prince George start his public career sooner than his parents would like: the mark of the monarchy will be in dire need of invigorating fresh blood as he reaches his final years of service. ‘adolescence. (Just look across the North Sea to Denmark, where Amalienborg Palace has started to dramatically raise the public profile of Prince Christian, the second in right to the throne, in recent months to l approaching her 16th birthday.)
In 1947, to mark her 21st birthday, the then princess gave her first major speech and announced her intention to embrace the “noble motto” of the kings and queens who had preceded her: “I serve” .
This notion of unwavering dedication and duty to his people and his country is as pressing as ever to Her Majesty today as it was then.
The question, which no one can really answer, is: who will be left to serve in the years to come?
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with over 15 years of experience working with a number of major Australian media titles.