Prince Charles and Camilla were joined by Princess Anne and husband Timothy Laurence at the Braemar Highland Gathering in Scotland this afternoon after the Queen was unable to attend for the first time in her 70-year reign.
Charles, referred to at the games as the Duke of Rothesay in Scotland, officially opened The Queen Elizabeth Platinum Jubilee Archway during the festival and will present awards to the top-performing competitors as the events unfold throughout the day.
The Archway was built to commemorate the Queen’s historic 70 years on the throne in recognition of Her Majesty as a patron of the world-famous event.
The Palace confirmed the Queen was unable to attend one of her favourite events of the year as concerns continue over her health and mobility issues, with royal sources saying the decision has been taken ‘for her comfort’.
The announcement comes after Her Majesty was said to have been ‘carefully considering’ whether she was fit enough to attend the event as she continues to struggle to walk.
However, for the first time in the event’s history, it will be live streamed online so her majesty will be able to watch from the comfort of Balmoral.
It comes as The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are reportedly back in the UK this weekend for the first time since returning for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
The couple touched down on UK soil on Saturday morning after flying commercial, Hello! reports, adding they appeared to be without their children Archie and Lillibet.
Harry and Meghan will appear at events in London and Manchester, as well as jetting off to Germany to mark the one year countdown to the Invictus Games.
There are ‘no plans’ for them to meet with William and Kate despite staying just a few hundred feet away from them and it is not known if they will visit the Queen in Balmoral.
In Braemar, the Prince of Wales was joined by Camilla as he cut a ‘heather rope’ to officially open The Queen Elizabeth Platinum Jubilee Archway structure before the couple were driven to the Royal Pavilion where they took their seats to watch the afternoon’s events.
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall with Princess Anne, Princess Royal enjoy competitive scenes at today’s Games
The Prince of Wales was pictured enjoying some parts of today’s Games more than others as he sat alongside his wife and Princess Anne
Prince Charles and Camilla are joined by Princess Anne and Timothy Laurence at the Highland Games to open the Queen Elizabeth Platinum Jubilee Archway after Her Majesty, 96, was forced to miss one her ‘favourite’ events ‘for her comfort’
All colours of tartan can be seen at the Games, which features longstanding Scottish traditions, music and dance
Pictured: Princess Anne, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall arrive at the annual Braemar Highland Gathering
Anne, Princess Royal and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall are presented with heather posies by Chloe Guy and Cassie Stewart
Prince Charles and Camilla are greeted after arriving at the Braemar Highland Gathering in Braemar on Saturday afternoon
Charles, Prince of Wales, the Duke of Rothesay when in Scotland cuts a ‘heather rope’ to officially open The Queen Elizabeth Platinum Jubilee Archway during the Braemar Highland Gathering at the Princess Royal & Duke of Fife Memorial Park
The Massed Pipes and Drums parade in the arena during the Braemar Royal Highland Gathering on Saturday afternoon
The Massed Pipes and Drums parade in the arena during the Braemar Royal Highland Gathering where the Queen is absent
Tug-of-War competitors take part in Braemar Royal Highland Gathering at the Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park
This year’s competition – which has seen contestants battle it out in caber-tossing and tug-of-war in front of spectators including the Royal Family – is the first to be held since the start of the pandemic and will be streamed online for the first time.
Organisers said: ‘We are passionate about our traditions, heritage and history and we are excited that we can reach new and old audiences to share those with you.’
The Braemar Gathering is arguably the most famous Highland Games event in the world and takes place on the first Saturday of September every year.
This year’s event is the first since 2019 after the pandemic forced organisers to cancel the last two years.
The festival is known to attract visitors from all over the world and this year has featured competitors from Scotland, England, Australia and America.
The Highland Games, which are often attended by the Queen and the prime minister of the day, are usually a highlight in the monarch’s calendar. They are held at the Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park in Braemar.
But royal sources confirmed yesterday that there were two main issues in terms of the Queen’s attendance – firstly getting her to the games, but also that she would have to sit in public for a long period of time to watch them.
Competitors take part in the Braemar Royal Highland Gathering at the Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park
Competitors take part in the Braemar Royal Highland Gathering at the Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park
The Highland dancing competition takes place at the Braemar Highland Gathering on September 03, 2022 in Braemar
Highland dancing competition takes place at the Braemar Highland Gathering on September 03, 2022 in Braemar, Scotland
Reports suggested it may be the pavilion where her majesty would have traditionally sat may have been a factor in the decision to miss the event this year.
In previous years, the Queen has enjoyed the world-famous even from the Royal Pavilion which has a series of at least ten steps leading up to it which would have to be navigated by anyone hoping to take their seat in the box.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast from Braemar this morning, Royal Correspondent Nicholas Witchell said he didn’t believe the Queen’s absence was something to be concerned about.
He said: ‘She is a lady of 96 and frankly what 96-year-old doesn’t have some health concerns?
‘I think the important thing is has there been any significant change in her health in recent weeks and my understanding is that there hasn’t.
‘We saw at the time of the Platinum jubilee weekend that she was unable to attend various events then because of this mobility issue that she has, because of her comfort as palace officials describe it and that’s the situation here at the moment.
The Braemar Gathering is set to get underway today but, despite the event being a favourite of the Royal Family, the Queen will not be in attendance due to concerns for her mobility. Pictured: The Queen opens a new building at Thames Hospice in Maidenhead, Berkshire, on July 15, 2022 (left); and attends an Armed Forces Act of Loyalty Parade on June 28 (right)
Reports suggested that the steep steps up to the royal box may have played a factor in whether the Queen attended (2019)
Prince Charles will officially open The Queen Elizabeth Platinum Jubilee Archway during the festival this afternoon (pictured)
Pictured: The Massed Pipes and Drums parade in the arena during the Braemar Royal Highland Gathering in Braemar
‘So she this afternoon will remain at Balmoral where she’s on her summer break while other members of the Royal Family will be here and in that little pavilion.
‘I think possibly one of the reasons why the Queen won’t be coming is because there’s a little bit of a climb up to that so as close as the Range Rover can get her, she would still have to climb up those steps and I think that would be one of the factors weighing in their minds.’
The decision will prompt fresh fears about the Queen’s health, just two days after Buckingham Palace said she would remain in Scotland to appoint a new prime minister at Balmoral for the first time in her reign.
The Games are classed as a ‘private’ event in Her Majesty’s calendar and not a public engagement. It is understood that the monarch had originally hoped she would be at the event which begins this morning shortly before midday.
Until now, the Queen has never missed the Highland Games during her 70-year reign, following a tradition of the monarch attending which was started by Queen Victoria 174 years ago in 1848.
The event is held a short distance from where Her Majesty is staying on her annual summer at the Balmoral Castle estate in Aberdeenshire.
The Highland Games is known for being one of the Queen’s favourite engagements, and she has often been photographed there laughing and smiling with other members of her family as they watch on from the Royal Box.
A member of a pipe band takes part in the Braemar Highland Gathering on September 03, 2022 in Braemar, Scotland
Pictured: Participants take part in the Tug of War competition the Braemar Highland Gathering on Saturday, September 03
Participants compete in the 28-Pound Weight Throw (left) and the shot put (right) during the Braemar Highland Gathering
Pictured: Pipers in procession during the Braemar Highland Gathering at the Princess Royal & Duke of Fife Memorial Park
Pictured: The Royal Gurkhas perform a display drill in the arena during the Braemar Royal Highland Gathering on Saturday
Competitors in the Highland Fling Scottish Highland dance competition perform during the Braemar Highland Gathering
Pictured: Tug-of-War competitors take part in the Braemar Highland Gathering on September 03, 2022 in Braemar, Scotland
Pipers of London Scottish Pipes and Drums band play at Braemar Gathering at Princess Royal & Duke of Fife Memorial Park
Pictured: Drum Major Roland Stuart of the Police Pipe Band leads the procession during the Braemar Highland Gathering
A view of the spectators in attendance at the Braemar Highland Gathering at the Princess Royal & Duke of Fife Memorial Park
The Queen with Prince Charles, Camilla, Autumn Phillips and Peter Phillips at the Braemar Gathering on September 7, 2019
How the Queen’s health has been scrutinised
The Queen’s health has been scrutinised over the past year, with the monarch having to pull out of key events due to ongoing mobility issues.
She thrilled crowds on the first day of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations on June 2 when she appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony and later at Windsor Castle.
But the next day she pulled out of the Platinum Jubilee Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral after experiencing ‘discomfort’ during the previous day’s celebrations. The decision was considered regrettable, it is understood, but sensible due to the length of the journey and time involved and the physical demands the event would have required.
While she made a number of in-person visits in the weeks leading up to her Jubilee celebrations, including a surprise visit to open the Elizabeth line and to tour the Chelsea Flower Show using a golf buggy, the Queen has faced ongoing ‘episodic mobility problems’ stretching back to last autumn and now uses a walking stick.
In October 2021, she used a walking stick at a Westminster Abbey service – the first time she had done so at a major engagement. A week later, after a busy autumn programme, she was ordered to rest by her doctors and advised to cancel a trip to Northern Ireland.
The Queen was secretly admitted to hospital for ‘preliminary investigations’ and had her first overnight stay in hospital for eight years on October 20, 2021. The next day she was back at her desk at Windsor, carrying out light duties.
But concern for her health mounted when she pulled out of more high-profile engagements, including the Cop26 climate change summit and the Festival of Remembrance, with Buckingham Palace saying she had been advised to continue to rest and not carry out any official visits. She was intent on attending the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph, but missed this due to a sprained back.
For more than three months she carried out only light duties, including virtual and face-to-face audiences in the confines of Windsor Castle.
In February 2022, she celebrated her Platinum Jubilee, meeting charity workers at Sandringham House and cutting a Jubilee cake in what was her largest in-person public engagement since October.
Many of her duties are now carried out via video calls, and the country’s longest-reigning sovereign remarked during a in-person audience in February: ‘Well, as you can see, I can’t move.’
There were fears for her health when she caught Covid, testing positive on February 20, 2022. The triple-vaccinated Queen suffered from mild cold-like symptoms but said the virus left her ‘very tired and exhausted’. She carried on with light duties while self-isolating at Windsor but cancelled some virtual audiences.
She pulled out of the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in March, a significant date in the royal calendar given the importance to her of the family of nations, and did not attend the Maundy Thursday service. But she rallied to honour the Duke of Edinburgh at a memorial service at the end of March, walking slowly and carefully with the aid of a stick, and holding on to the Duke of York’s elbow for support.
In May 2022, she missed the State Opening of Parliament for the first time in nearly 60 years, with Buckingham Palace attributing her absence to ‘episodic mobility problems’. The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge opened parliament on her behalf as Counsellors of State, with Charles reading the Queen’s Speech for a historic first time.
Much has changed in the past seven months, with Buckingham Palace mostly only confirming the Queen’s attendance at engagements on the day, with the decision dependent on how she is feeling in the morning. She did go to the Windsor Horse Show in May and she was also the guest of honour at the equestrian extravaganza A Gallop Through History near Windsor, the first major event of the Jubilee festivities.
She also made a surprise appearance to officially open the Elizabeth line at Paddington Station, looking bright and cheery, though her visit was limited to 10 minutes. She also turned up at the Chelsea Flower Show and was driven around the floral extravaganza in her new hi-tech golf buggy for her comfort.
The Queen, who celebrated her Platinum Jubilee this year, is on her traditional summer break in the Scottish Highlands, but has faced health issues since last autumn.
She now regularly uses a walking stick, but rallied to appear on the Buckingham Palace balcony for her Jubilee.
Her traditional welcome to Balmoral Castle earlier in August was held privately for her ‘comfort’.
The monarch traditionally holds audiences with outgoing and incoming premiers at Buckingham Palace.
But Boris Johnson, who will tender his resignation, and the new Conservative Party leader who will be asked to form a government – either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak – will travel to Balmoral Castle – a 1,000-mile round trip – for the key audiences next Tuesday instead.
It is believed to be the first time in the monarch’s 70 years on the throne that she has conducted the historic duty away from Buckingham Palace.
A Palace spokesman confirmed the decision over the Prime Minister audiences on Wednesday and it is understood it was taken at this stage in order to provide certainty for the Prime Minister’s diary.
If the Queen had experienced an episodic mobility issue next week and the plan had been to travel to London or Windsor, it would have led to alternative arrangements at the last minute.
The Sun reported at the weekend that the Prince of Wales had been making regular morning visits to see his mother as she continues to struggle with her mobility, with the unplanned visits considered highly unusual.
Former BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said: ‘The fact officials can’t be sure the Queen will be well enough to travel next week is yet another reminder of her advanced age and increasing frailty.
‘Despite this, the Queen remains determined to carry out her core duties.
‘Appointing a new prime minister is not something that can easily be passed to Prince Charles, a king-in-waiting.’
Buckingham Palace declined to give an ongoing commentary on the monarch’s health.
The audiences will take place in Balmoral’s green-carpeted Drawing Room, which has matching green sofas, a leaf-patterned fabric chair, an open fire and a number of equine-themed antique paintings on the walls.
Mr Johnson said arrangements for the handover to the new prime minister will be down to the Queen and ‘fit totally around her and whatever she wants’.
The politician told reporters during a visit to Barrow-in-Furness: ‘I don’t talk about my conversations with the Queen, no prime minister ever does.’
In 2019, after a private audience with the Queen in which he accepted her invitation to form a government and become PM, Mr Johnson revealed to a reporter that the monarch had quipped: ‘I don’t know why anyone would want the job.’
The Queen will also hold a virtual Privy Council meeting the following day, rather than an in-person one, where the new PM will be sworn in as First Lord of the Treasury among other business.
During her Jubilee celebrations, the Queen only travelled to Buckingham Palace twice – first for her Trooping the Colour balcony appearance and then for a finale after the pageant.
She spends most of her time at Windsor Castle, 22 miles from central London, living there during the pandemic and while major renovations take place at Buckingham Palace.
As head of state, it is the Queen’s duty to appoint the prime minister who leads Her Majesty’s Government.
The Royal Encyclopedia states that the appointment of a prime minister is ‘one of the few remaining personal prerogatives of the sovereign’.
The monarch does not act on advice nor need to consult anyone before calling upon the leader with an overall majority of seats in the House of Commons to form a government.
Either Ms Truss or Mr Sunak will be the 15th prime minister of the Queen’s reign.
After a new premier has been appointed, the Court Circular will record that ‘the Prime Minister kissed hands on appointment’. This is not literally the case, and it is usually a handshake.
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