When the queen pulled out of attending one of the most important dates on her calendar Sunday and blamed her decision on a sprained back, her office said that she would continue to undertake “light duties” at Windsor Castle this week.
On Wednesday, after an anxious few days, Buckingham Palace finally released a photograph of the queen that appeared aimed at alleviating concerns over her health. The picture shows the queen standing while she held a face to face audience with General Sir Nick Carter, the outgoing chief of the defense staff. It represented her first known official engagement since missing the weekend’s event.
A video clip of the encounter was also released, which showed the queen and Carter chatting briefly about his career. The queen was not wearing a mask.
Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street both declined to tell The Daily Beast whether Her Majesty would be meeting Prime Minister Boris Johnson, either in person or via video link, for the weekly audience.
It had been widely assumed that the palace would release a photo of the queen to steady nerves after a series of health scares in recent weeks. She was hospitalized for mystery tests last month and has missed a number of important engagements since then.
Last week the palace distributed photographs of her on video calls, and she was also photographed out driving in Windsor. On Thursday last week it was announced that she would attend the National Service of Remembrance, but that plan was dramatically dashed on Sunday, with less than two hours notice, stoking fears about her health.
Today’s audience was the first that has been seen of the queen so far this week.
The queen herself has been known to joke, “I have to be seen to be believed,” and the latest pictures will calm fears that she might actually have been quite a bit more unwell than her office has been gamely making out in recent days.
On Tuesday, the queen did not attend—even virtually—the Church of England’s national assembly, known as the Synod, for the first time in her 69 years on the throne. The Synod is held every five years.
Her son, Prince Edward, went in her place, saying that he sent her “sincere and deep apologies that she cannot be here today.”
“I think you probably understand why, and she regrets that deeply,” he said.
The queen did not speak to the the assembled bishops by video link, or even via a pre-recorded message, the more predictable and easily managed medium she used to address the Cop26 summit after being forced to bail.
Instead, it was a case of back to the old days as a statement was read on her behalf by Edward.
It was a statement which, unexpectedly, was very far from the generic good wishes her office can sometimes send out. It was deeply personal, and undoubtedly written by the queen herself. The most striking passage read: “None of us can slow the passage of time; and while we often focus on all that has changed in the intervening years, much remains unchanged, including the gospel of Christ and his teachings.”