Reports emerged that the Queen sprained her back prior to the event, forcing her son, Prince Charles to carry out duties on her behalf. Although the Queen had full intentions of attending the event, the 95-year-old monarch was said to be “deeply disappointed” at having to take the 11th-hour decision not to lead the nation’s remembrance of its war dead.
A royal aide added: “It is obviously incredibly unfortunate timing and nobody regrets the Queen’s absence more than her majesty herself. She is deeply disappointed to miss the engagement which she regards as one of the most significant engagements of the year.”
But yesterday morning, less than two hours before she was due to arrive, a spokesman said she had suffered further ill health and could no longer attend.
They stressed there was no connection with her recent hospitalisation.
The Queen is said to have watched the ceremony live on TV at home in Windsor.
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Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference: “I know that everybody will be wanting to offer their best wishes to her majesty the Queen and I just wanted to reassure everybody by saying that I did see the Queen for an audience last week on Wednesday in Windsor and she’s very well.”
The latest setback has led many in royal circles to believe that when she eventually feels well enough to return to more taxing duties, the Queen is unlikely to be overworked.
One royal commentator said: “I firmly believe the public won’t see her out and about as much, that said, she will still be visible, carrying out less taxing engagements within palace walls.”
The expert added: “The whole video and virtual engagement development as a result of Covid has given palace aides options they didn’t have before. But there will definitely be a change in pace.”
The Queen was last seen in public on October 19, when she held a reception at Windsor for business leaders, tech entrepreneurs and governmental representatives. Among those present was Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates.
The previous two engagements before that had seen the Queen using a walking stick in public for the first time.
Royal biographer Penny Junor said missing the Cenotaph event would be a blow for the Queen.
She added: “Remembering the war dead is a very, very important part of her annual calendar.”
The analyst also said: “But clearly she must follow the advice and get herself well. It’s not surprising because she is 95.”
She concluded by saying: “We’re so used to seeing her out and about and looking years younger than she is that I think we’ve been lulled into thinking she can go on at this kind of pace forever. Clearly she can’t.”
The Queen has only missed six other Cenotaph ceremonies during her reign: on four occasions when she was on overseas visits.
She was not present during the 1959 and 1963 services as she was pregnant with her two youngest children.
The Queen has missed several other events, including the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday evening.
She was forced to cancel a two-day visit to Northern Ireland at the last minute three weeks ago after being ordered to rest by doctors following a slew of public engagements.