There are fresh fears for the health of the 96-year-old Queen after a last-minute major change to her traditional summer holiday plans.
The monarch is due to arrive at Balmoral Castle in Scotland later on Monday (local time) to begin her annual summer break.
But in a departure from a practice of decades, for the first time her traditional meet and greet at the castle gates has been abandoned.
Instead, she will be welcomed to the royal estate with a “small, private event”, according to British media.
“The traditional welcome to Balmoral is normally cemented in the Queen’s calendar and something Her Majesty really enjoys, being able to greet locals who travel to see her,” a royal source told The Mirror.
“It’s a bitter disappointment the ceremony will not take place in its traditional form.”
Other sources suggested the alternative plan was “very much a sign of things to come”. Despite that, Buckingham Palace has hastened to allay fears about the Queen’s health, insisting the private ceremony was “in line with adapting Her Majesty’s schedule for her comfort”.
The Queen usually would inspect a guard of honour from a Scottish regiment on her arrival. In 2021, she also revelled in a performance by a military band and met one regiment’s Shetland pony mascot.
But this year instead, she will simply start her annual stay at the castle with a private ceremony on the lawns. According to The Mirror, she will still cast her eye over the soldiers but no media will be invited.
The Mirror reports that until just days ago, the Queen intended to go ahead with her usual public welcome. It is the latest in a series of changes that reflect the ageing monarch’s failing health.
She thrilled millions of Britons just a couple of months ago with two appearances on the Buckingham Palace balcony during the long weekend to celebrate her platinum jubilee.
But she was also forced to skip other events, including a public service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral and the Epsom Derby – just the latest in a series of public events she has missed due to tiredness or ongoing mobility issues.
In recent months, the Queen has been seen regularly using a stick to help her walk, and she turned out to the Chelsea Garden Show in May in a buggy.
Also in May, she missed the state opening of Britain’s parliament, for only the third time in her 70-year reign. The important occasion was delegated to son and heir Prince Charles and his son William.
The Queen’s arrival at Balmoral signals the start of her annual holiday, and the closure of the castle to the public.
She has, however, reportedly been in Scotland for several weeks already. She has been staying at Craigowan Lodge, a seven-bedroom residence on the Balmoral estate that is just a couple of kilometres from the main castle.
It has recently had a “wheelchair-friendly” lift fitted ahead of the Queen’s plans to spend more time at Highland retreat in the Highlands. Other security updates were made at the same time.
Elsewhere, royal sources confirmed the Queen will interrupt her holiday next month to return to London to invite her 15th British prime minister to form a government when Boris Johnson quits on September 6.
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