Queen’s diary scaled back after having to cancel Commonwealth service

ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship reports on a scaling back of the Queen's diary, after she missed the annual Commonwealth Day service today

In any other year, the Queen would be arriving at the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey today for a service in honour of an organisation she holds dear.

The annual Commonwealth Day service is an entry in her diary in heavy ink - similar to the Remembrance Sunday event at the Cenotaph every November - as it brings the Queen together with the 54 nations of the Commonwealth for an hour-long service.

But just as she was forced to miss the Cenotaph last year so she will miss the Commonwealth Day service on Monday - and the Queen has asked, once again, Prince Charles to represent her.

Her absence has been caused by mobility issues rather than an illness related to her recent Covid infection but it has hastened the fundamental review of her diary which began last Autumn when she had to pull out of a number of engagements because of poor health.

Then she cancelled a trip to Northern Ireland and to the COP26 Climate Change Summit in Glasgow following a busy October schedule which some observers thought was simply too much.

Once change already decided, is that the Queen - who will be 96 in April - will no longer carry out the investiture ceremonies, of which there are many, where a senior member of the Royal Family personally hands out various honours like MBEs, CBEs and Orders of Merit.

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The Queen has carried them out for decades, but given they involve standing for a long period of time as each recipient is announced and then given a short audience, it has been decided this is one such event which will now be struck from her diary for good.

She might be able to do individual honours - similar to how she personally knighted Captain Tom (Captain Sir Tom Moore) in 2020 - but the large scale investitures will now be handed over to her children and grandchildren, who already carry out most of them.

It’s part of a wider examination of the Queen’s commitments now she is in the second half of her ninth decade.

Priority will be given to those events which demand the Head of State’s involvement - or those those engagements which mean most to her.

In the short term, that means making sure the Queen is well enough to attend the Duke of Edinburgh’s Service of Thanksgiving, scheduled for the end of March.

That is also at Westminster Abbey - and that will involve doing the things she was unable to do today at the Commonwealth service: namely travelling there from Windsor Castle, walking through the Nave and towards the High Altar, and sitting for the length of the service.

The Queen will want to be there herself to as the nation pays tribute to her late husband.

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She does use a walking stick now, but the Palace will be wary of her being filmed and photographed looking overly frail.The Queen has recently marked another historic milestone in becoming the only British Monarch ever to achieve 70 years of reign.The Platinum Jubilee year will be a moment to reflect on the length of her service to the country - but it will also necessitate a practical examination of what the Queen can - and can’t - continue to do in her role as Sovereign.