Queen Elizabeth sprains back, skips Remembrance Sunday

November 14, 2021
(L-R) Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Britain's Sophie, Countess of Wessex attend the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph on Whitehall in central London, on November 14, 2021.
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Queen Elizabeth II has sprained her back, Buckingham Palace says, keeping her from attending what would have been her return to duty Sunday after several weeks of heighted concern over the state of the 95-year-old monarch’s health.

The queen’s decision, which was announced Sunday morning just a few hours before she was scheduled to appear, was made with “great regret” and “disappointment” over missing the service, the palace told USA TODAY in a statement. 

The palace said just days ago the queen was determined not to miss Remembrance Sunday, a sacred ceremony in the royal diary that usually brings out most of the senior royals.

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“It remains The Queen’s firm intention to be present for the National Service of Remembrance on Remembrance Sunday, on 14th November,” the palace previously said. 

The palace’s original statement obtained by USA TODAY on Thursday said the queen had taken her doctors’ advice and would not be attending the service or opening session of the General Synod of the Church of England, which she heads, on Tuesday. 

Her youngest son, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, will attend as planned.

She also missed the annual Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance on Saturday night at the Royal Albert Hall, which she usually attends. Other senior members of the royal family attended, including Prince Charles and his wife, Duchess Camilla of Cornwall, and Prince William and Duchess Kate of Cambridge.  

When her medical advisers told the queen last month that it was best if the she took a break after a busy few weeks of in-person engagements, she agreed with regret, according to Buckingham Palace.

She had spent one night in the hospital for unspecified “preliminary investigations,” which the palace did not disclose until she was already back home at Windsor Castle the next day. 

She agreed to engage only in light desk duties, and canceled in-person engagements, including a visit to Northern Ireland and a reception at the COP26 climate-change conference in Glasgow.

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The commemoration has taken place every November since 1919 at the Cenotaph (Greek for “empty tomb”) in Whitehall, the London street where government buildings stand, and features some of the military pomp and ceremony for which Britain is known.

More:New photos show Queen Elizabeth in a mask for the first time, but she skips mask for Remembrance Day

In most of the previous Remembrance ceremonies of her 69-year-long reign, the queen would lay the wreath of poppies at the Cenotaph. The only times she has missed the event is when she was pregnant or abroad.  

In 2017, for the first time due to her advancing age, Charles carried out the ritual on her behalf as she watched from the balcony.

By custom, the royal men who hold honorary military commissions dress in uniforms; the royal women dress in black, including their hats. 

It’s a change for the queen, known for the bright colors she usually wears in public. The last time she was seen in mourning colors was in April at the COVID-reduced funeral in Windsor of her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who was 99. 

The only bits of color are the small red artificial poppy pins British men and women (and many Europeans) wear on lapels and shoulders throughout November. (Remembrance Sunday is also known as Poppy Day.)

In the United Kingdom, Remembrance Sunday, which takes place on the Sunday closest to Armistice Day on Nov. 11, is comparable to America’s Memorial Day. It’s especially important to the queen because she is one of the few Britons left who lived through and survived World War II, when her father, George VI, was on the throne. 

She represents the closest connection among the living royals to Britain’s military history, says Nicoletta Gullace, a professor of British history at the University of New Hampshire.

“The queen regards the Remembrance Sunday devotions as perhaps the most hallowed of her duties,” Gullace says. “Her presence, even if only for a short appearance, is vitally important to the monarchy since her absence would lead to grave doubts about her health.”

Most Brits have grown up associating the sacrifices and the victories of the war with the royal family, who take very seriously their commitment to pay tribute to those died helping to save Britain.

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