The Queen has pulled out of the annual Maundy Day church service, Buckingham Palace has announced.
In a first for her reign, the monarch, who turns 96 this month, will instead be represented by Prince Charles and Camilla at the event, due to be held on April 14.
The service will take place at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle following a two-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic.
It comes after the Queen, who suffers from widely-publicized mobility issues, pulled out of the Commonwealth Service last month amid concerns over her health.
Her decision not to attend was understood to be related to concerns over her comfort in getting to and from Westminster.
There were also fears she would miss Prince Philip’s memorial at the end of March before a ‘military-style’ plan was hatched to ensure she could arrive comfortably.
In a first for her reign, the monarch, 95, will instead be represented by Prince Charles at the event, due to be held on April 14. (Pictured: Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Eugenie of York hold nosegays as they attend the traditional Royal Maundy Service at St George’s Chapel on April 18, 2019)
The head of state, who now uses walking stick and a wheelchair, has been conducting business over zoom (pictured) from Windsor Castle in recent months.
There were also fears the Queen would miss Prince Philip’s memorial service at the end of March before a ‘military-style’ plan was hatched to ensure she could arrive comfortably. (Pictured: An emotional monarch during Philip’s service)
The Maundy Day Service is a tradition dating back to 600AD
Every year, on Maundy Thursday, The Queen distributes special Maundy money to pensioners in a service which commemorates Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper.
Recipients of Maundy money are nominated by their local dioceses for contributions to their local church and community.
Due to it being canceled last year amid the Covid pandemic, the money was instead blessed at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, before being posted to recipients alongside a letter from The Queen.
This meant recipients could still receive their Maundy money and purses, and instead mark the special occasion from their homes.
The Maundy Service happens each year on the Thursday before Easter Sunday. The Queen has traveled to various cathedrals and abbeys to give gifts to local people.
During the service, The Queen distributes gifts according to the number of years she has lived: for example, last year, Her Majesty was 95, and so The Queen distributed 95 pence worth of Maundy money to 95 men and 95 women in recognition for their contribution to community and to the church.
The service dates back to 600AD and these special coins have kept much the same form since 1670. They still bear the portrait of Her Majesty designed for her coronation in 1953, even though the image on ordinary circulating coinage has since been changed four times.
Each recipient of Maundy money is given two small leather purses by The Queen, one red and one white.
The first contains a small amount of ordinary coinage which symbolizes the Sovereign’s gift for food and clothing. This year the coins are specially created to commemorate Her Majesty’s 95th Birthday, and the 50th anniversary of Decimal Day.
The second purse contains Maundy coins up to the value of the Sovereign’s age. The coins are legal tender but recipients normally prefer to retain them as a keepsake.
The monarch used a stick as she was walked to and from her seat – supported by her disgraced son the Duke of York – to give her ‘strength and stay’ Philip the final farewell he had wanted.
Her Majesty’s presence was only confirmed two hours before the event started.
After a poignant service limited to 40 minutes, she was driven the 22-miles back to Windsor Castle after what was her first major public engagement for approaching six months.
The head of state, who recovered from Covid in February and at times uses a wheelchair, has also been conducting much of her business over zoom from Windsor Castle in recent months.
Next week’s event is a traditional Church of England ceremony held on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, and celebrates everyday citizens who have contributed to their local church or community.
They are handed ceremonial silver coins, known as ‘Maundy Money’, to thank them for their service.
It is understood the Queen was unable to commit to the event and, with the order of service being printed, she was keen for the arrangements to be confirmed to avoid any misunderstanding or the day to be overshadowed.
The Palace said in a statement: ‘Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will represent Her Majesty The Queen at the Royal Maundy Service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor on Thursday 14th April.
‘The Prince and The Duchess will be met by the Dean of Windsor, The Right Reverend David Conner KCVO and the Lord High Almoner, the Right Reverend Dr. John Inge.
‘Their Royal Highnesses will be presented with nosegays at the start of the service, during which The Prince of Wales will distribute the Maundy money.
‘Following the service, The Prince and The Duchess will proceed to the West Steps where an official photograph will be taken of Their Royal Highnesses and the Royal Maundy party.’
The Queen has made fewer appearances in public during the Covid-19 pandemic, with many of her engagements switching to virtual events.
Before Philip’s memorial service, she had last met a group of people in public on February 5, the eve of reaching her Platinum Jubilee, when she hosted a reception at her Sandringham home for local charity workers, volunteers and former staff from her Sandringham estate.
Concerns were first raised about the Queen’s health when she spent a night in hospital last October, missed a string of events and was advised to undertake light duties by royal doctors.
In November, she pulled out of hosting world leaders at a UN climate change summit in Glasgow, and canceled an appearance at the Remembrance Day parade due to a bad back.
She had only returned to something approaching normal working practices just before contracting Covid-19 in February.
A royal expert this week claimed the Queen would be managing ‘more engagements from her living room’ due to her ‘mobility issues’.
Speaking to The Telegraph, royal expert Camilla Tominey said: ‘The diary has become quite an agile piece of royal equipment in the sense that it’s up to the Queen in the morning what she can and can’t do…People are going to be coming to the Queen rather than her traveling to them.’
The 95-year-old monarch used a stick as she was walked to and from her seat, supported by her disgraced son the Duke of York, to give her ‘strength and stay’ Philip the final farewell he had wanted
Earlier this month it was reported that the Queen had decided to make Windsor Castle her permanent home and main residence.
The expert explained: ‘The monarchy is changing before our very eyes and arguably that’s no bad thing.
‘What we think is the Queen isn’t having health problems but mobility problems – she can’t stand for long periods or walk for long distances and therefore accommodations are being made.’
Camilla continued: ‘I think the palace are handling this vey much as they did when the Duke of Edinburgh retired and he was able to say which engagements he did or didn’t want to attend at very short notice.’
The royal expert went on to make a prediction about future engagements for the Queen, saying: ‘I think we’re going to see more of the Queen in situ, and she might get to where she needs to be in private and then be photographed on the spot.
‘That being said, we had some lovely photographs last week of an audience in her own living room. That’s going to be happening more frequently now.’