Elizabeth II celebrates her 96th birthday this Thursday. The Queen of England has planned to retire nearly 200 kilometers from London, to the royal estate of Sandringham, to celebrate this day “in a private way”.
Queen Elizabeth II, the world’s oldest sitting monarch, turns 96 on Thursday, now largely withdrawn from public life due to mobility issues. Cannon fire from the Tower of London and Hyde Park will mark the event and a military band will play “Happy Birthday” for the occasion.
But the queen, who passed the milestone of 70 years of reign in February, will celebrate this day “in a private way”, said a spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace. She flew on Wednesday by helicopter to the royal estate of Sandringham, 200 kilometers north of London. According to the press, she will spend a few days there at Wood Farm, the relatively modest house with a view of the North Sea that her husband Philip, who died last year, loved so much.
A frail and dignified silhouette
The first months of her “Platinum Jubilee”, which will see four days of much-awaited festivities in early June, have not been easy, between her health problems, the accusations of sexual assault against her son Andrew – recently arrived to a financial agreement with his accuser – and questions about the future of the monarchy and the Commonwealth. Since a brief hospitalization in October, the sovereign’s appearances have become rare, even if she continues to carry out “light duties” at Windsor Castle, most of the time by videoconference. She did not attend Easter mass at the castle chapel last Sunday. Many of his scheduled appearances in recent months have been cancelled, sometimes at the last minute.
On March 29, however, she insisted on attending a religious ceremony at Westminster Abbey in tribute to Prince Philip, who died on April 9, 2021 at the age of 99. Arrived on the arm of her son Andrew, leaning on a cane, we saw her there, frail and dignified, walking slowly, getting up several times during the service, and then greeting participants. But she hadn’t come through the main door, to limit her effort. It was his first major public appearance in months. She herself had confided in mid-February that she “could not move”, showing her left leg during a hearing in Windsor.
According to the British press, she would use a wheelchair in private, and an adapted lift would have been installed in her Scottish residence in Balmoral. Adding to those issues, she caught Covid-19 in February, with Buckingham Palace speaking of “mild symptoms”. “It leaves you very tired and exhausted, doesn’t it? This horrible pandemic,” the sovereign recently told caregivers. “She is in great shape,” however, her grandson Harry told NBC on Wednesday after a surprise visit to Windsor Castle last week with his wife Meghan. The couple now settled in California had not seen her for two years.
Since October, the Queen has largely delegated to her son Charles, 73, the heir to the crown. But he is significantly less popular than her – 43% favorable opinions against 69% for the queen – according to an Ipsos poll in March, and also much less popular than her son Prince William, 39 (64%). 42% of Britons would also prefer Charles to abdicate in favor of Prince William, whose wife Kate is also very popular (60%). But the recent tour of William and Kate in the Caribbean, to celebrate the attachment of the monarchy to the former colonies on the occasion of the Jubilee, has sometimes given rise to tense confrontations, in particular on the past slavery of the United Kingdom, auguring difficulties coming. And Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness considered “inevitable” the transition of his country, a member of the Commonwealth of which the Queen is the head, towards a republican regime.
The palace has not finished, in this year of Jubilee, already preparing for another test, that of the publication of a book of secrets of Prince Harry, expected in the fall.