Prince Charles's Middle East trip to go ahead despite queen's health concerns

Royal household considers increased duties for Prince Charles

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles at the Balmoral Estate last month. Getty

The UK's Prince Charles will go ahead with a trip to the Middle East on Tuesday despite concerns over Queen Elizabeth II’s health, the royal household told The National.

But he could be asked to assume more duties, royal sources have suggested.

For the first time in decades the queen, 95, cancelled an appearance at a Remembrance Sunday service in London owing to a sprained back.

The service would have been her first public duty since she was admitted to hospital last month.

Since being crowned in 1952, the queen has only missed six previous Cenotaph ceremonies, twice when pregnant and four times when on overseas trips.

The last time she missed the annual service was in 1963.

Her private secretary liaised with the Permanent Secretary for the Cabinet Office, Alex Chisholm, to inform him of her withdrawal from the event. Those lines of communication will remain open in the coming months.

“There had been some optimism that things would return to relative normality given the health concerns and difficult year that her majesty has endured,” a source connected to the royal household said.

Prince Charles lays a wreath during the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph, in Whitehall. AP Photo

The diary for Prince Charles’ official events will be reviewed to ensure he can continue to perform many of his mother’s duties.

Although he has no constitutional role as heir to the throne, he can perform several tasks, including investitures, official openings and royal overseas tours.

That includes visits to Jordan and Egypt, which begin on Tuesday.

“The visit to Egypt and Jordan is going ahead as planned,” a spokeswoman for Prince Charles said. “Nothing has changed, everything that has been planned is due to take place.”

Unless the queen’s health suddenly deteriorates the trip will continue until Friday.

But the military is reviewing plans for a “bridge event”, when a senior royal dies.

“This is under constant review and we are monitoring the situation sensitively,” a British Army source said.

“We have to be ready to deploy several thousand service personnel if a ‘bridge event’ actually happens, as it sadly did in April with the death of Prince Philip.”

Prince Charles, 73, and his staff are said to be preparing for when he becomes monarch.

Queen Elizabeth holds a virtual audience via video link last month from Windsor Castle. AP Photo

“Whether that is distant or close by, sadly it will inevitably happen and he will look to potentially implement reforms to the monarchy,” the royal source said.

Prince William, 39, will also move into a more senior role.

“Essentially we have a monarchy in transition at this moment,” said royal expert Robert Jobson.

“The queen is not as active as she would probably like to be. Prince Charles as the heir to the throne and William in particular have both been stepping up.”

While Prince Charles wants to slim down the monarchy, there are concerns that there are not enough senior royals to carry out all their duties, with Prince Harry living in the US and Prince Andrew adopting a low profile owing to his legal problems.

The royals give the British government a significant advantage in wielding soft power, with their ability to gain access to heads of state opening doors not usually open to diplomats and politicians.

The key focus for Buckingham Palace now is to allow for the queen to recover to celebrate her platinum jubilee.

On February 6, she would become the first British monarch to have reigned for 70 years.

The occasion will be marked by four days of celebration in the UK on the first weekend in June.

The government will hope the queen, given her immense experience and influence, will soon return to good health.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson told The National there had been no change to government planning as a result of her ill health. “This is a matter for the royal household,” he said.

Updated: November 16, 2021, 7:11 AM