Will the Queen abdicate following death of Prince Philip?

It is highly unlikely the 94-year-old monarch will step down from royal duties

Conrad Duncan
Sunday 11 April 2021 19:52 BST
Queen must be given 'time and space to grieve', says John Major

Following the death of her husband of more than 70 years, some people have wondered whether the Queen might step down as the UK’s head of state and retire to a more private life.

The Queen has described the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on Friday as “having left a huge void in her life”, according to her son Prince Andrew.

On Sunday, former prime minister Sir John Major said Prince Philip had provided great support to the Queen in the “very lonely position” of head of state.

It is understood that the monarch said private prayers for her husband this weekend as she attended a mass in Windsor Castle.

However, royal experts have said that it is highly unlikely that she will retire from her royal duties, even as she approaches her 95th birthday later this month.

Why do people think the Queen might abdicate?

At 94 years old, Queen Elizabeth II is by far the oldest serving state leader in the world - the closest, Cuba’s Raúl Castro, is 89 - and there has long been speculation over whether she could step down early from her role.

Her eldest son, Prince Charles, is also the longest-serving heir apparent to the British throne in history, having held the role for more than 68 years.

It has previously been suggested that the Queen could consider a regency - allowing Charles to become a stand-in sovereign - after her 95th birthday.

Why she is unlikely to step down

Aides and royal experts have long said that the death of Prince Philip would not lead to the Queen stepping down from her royal duties.

This is partly because the monarch notably pledged her life to the Commonwealth on her 21st birthday and has referred to her role as a “job for life”.

“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong,” she said during her tour of South Africa in 1947.

She also continued to carry out her official duties while Philip was in hospital for four weeks earlier this year, although remotely due to coronavirus restrictions.

However, it is possible that she could pass more official duties to Charles and other members of the royal family.

What royal experts are saying

Royal experts have been united in agreement that the Queen is unlikely to abdicate and it is expected that she will return to “business as usual” following a period of mourning.

“I can assure you the Queen will not abdicate,” royal historian Hugo Vickers told Reuters. “There is every indication the Queen is in extremely good health and with luck she will continue to be our queen for as long as possible.”

Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, said he expected the Queen to remain on the throne until at least her Platinum Jubilee in 2022.

“I suppose one way of looking at it was she was very fortunate to have the duke for so long. But I think as far as she’s concerned as monarch it will be very much business as usual after this brief period of mourning,”

He added: “I think, the fact the palace announced a while ago what the intention was for the Platinum Jubilee, next year, suggests she’s very much intending to be in the hot seat, at least until then.

“To my mind the oath she took on coronation day is something that she will abide by to the best of her intentions until her dying day.”

Robert Lacey, a historical consultant for Netflix’s The Crown, also noted the plans for next year’s Platinum Jubilee but suggested that more public work could be given to Charles and her grandson Prince William.

“While the Queen might step back a little and we’ll be seeing more of Prince Charles and Prince William doing representational work... the Queen will remain very firmly the Queen,” Mr Lacey said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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