Prince Philip, who recently announced his retirement from public life, was admitted to hospital late Tuesday night, triggering a fresh wave of speculation about the 96-year-old’s health.
Buckingham Palace said in a short statement that he was being treated for an infection related to a pre-existing condition.
Anxieties about Philip’s health have been quietly bubbling under the surface of royal life ever since he was admitted to hospital for an emergency heart operation in which he had a stent fitted over Christmas in 2011. The diamond-jubilee celebrations in 2012 were overshadowed by Philip’s health when he was admitted to hospital, after spending several hours on a barge on the windswept River Thames on an unseasonably cold day.
Then in 2014 he had unspecified “exploratory” abdominal surgery.
The palace appears to have been bounced into making the announcement Wednesday morning as Philip would have been missed at his wife’s side at the official opening of Parliament, and later at Royal Ascot.
Philip, who has battled a series of health conditions over recent years, was said to be in “good spirits” and disappointed to miss the Queen’s Speech.
The latter comment caused some ripples of amusement among the royal press pack, as Philip usually scowls his way through the ceremony.
Few would blame him if he did find the event less than enthralling.
As British displays of pomp and circumstance go, the Queen’s Speech—in which Her Majesty attends the House of Commons and opens the new session of Parliament by reading a long and often profoundly boring policy speech written for her by the government—is generally among the least exciting of venerable British customs.
However today’s ceremony became extremely dramatic, with the slender possibility being raised of the Speech being voted down by the government’s opponents, a rare event that last took place in 1924.
There was even some humor—veteran republican MP Dennis Skinner called out, “Get your skates on, first race is at half past two,” when MPs were summoned in traditional fashion from the House of Commons to the House of Lords to hear the speech.
Prince Charles took his father’s place at Her Majesty’s side.
The queen was said to have been annoyed that the opening of Parliament would be coinciding with one of the most eagerly awaited days of the racing year, the opening day of Royal Ascot, which is marked with the Royal Procession, which sees the monarch enter the racecourse in a horse-drawn carriage, a tradition unique to Royal Ascot which dates back to 1825 and the reign of King George IV.
This year the queen and Prince Philip had been expected to travel in the first carriage with Prince Andrew, with Charles and Camilla in the second carriage with Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.
Prince Charles will likely fill in for his father again in the carriage ride.