Last Wednesday, October 20, Buckingham Palace released the following statement:
“The Queen has reluctantly accepted medical advice to rest for the next few days. Her Majesty is in good spirits and is disappointed that she will no longer be able to visit Northern Ireland, where she had been due to undertake a series of engagements today and tomorrow. The Queen sends her warmest good wishes to the people of Northern Ireland, and looks forward to visiting in the future.”
It was also understood by the Royal Rota the Queen’s rest period on medical advice was “not Covid related”.
The Queen had been planning on undertaking two days of engagements in Northern Ireland beginning on Wednesday. As with all royal trips to Northern Ireland, the public had not been informed of the trip until the day of. This is due to the fact that there is a vocal anti-monarchist and republican sentiment in Northern Ireland that hasn’t totally died down since the time of the Troubles. Announcing a trip to Northern Ireland on the day of the trip itself means that the locations the royal will be visiting will be more likely to be secure and safe from any possible acts of violence or protest.
The Queen announcing that she was advised to rest for a few days was certainly not the norm, but in context it seemed very reasonable. Her Majesty had undertaken an astounding number of engagements in October alone. HM was planning on attending the COP26 environmental conference in Glasgow at the end of October. And, not to be too obvious, but Her Majesty is 95 years old. It’s not hyperbole to say that that kind of schedule would tire a person in their 20s or 30s, let alone someone who is 95.
Additionally, HM had been spotted at a few engagements earlier this month using a cane/walking stick. Which is totally normal for a person of the Queen’s age to do, but I think made a lot of people realize that as energetic as the Queen is, she is also human and has to deal with human problems like not being as solid on her feet as she was in previous decades. All of that to say that, when Buckingham Palace released its statement, it was maybe a little shocking but also understandable. The statement didn’t really ring any alarm bells. We all wished the Queen well and moved on.
But then, one day later, The Sun released a scoop: the Queen had not been resting at Windsor Castle the day before, but had actually been in hospital for almost a full day without telling the press or the public. Buckingham Palace was then forced to publish another press release, which said:
“Following medical advice to rest for a few days, The Queen attended hospital on Wednesday afternoon for some preliminary investigations, returning to Windsor Castle at lunchtime today, and remains in good spirits.”
In addition, per members of the Royal Rota, it was “understood after returning from the King Edward VII hospital, the Queen was back at her desk this afternoon and undertaking light duties.”
This second statement released by BuckPal – the one that owned up to the fact that the Royal Household lied about the Queen going to hospital – tried to minimize any worry that people might have over the Queen’s health. And for a lot of people, it did. But it has led me to question whether the Queen is actually as well as her staff are saying she is, as well as whether her staff has a duty to tell us if/when the Queen isn’t doing well. Here are the top three arguments I’ve seen about this situation on social media:
Argument #1: The Queen deserves medical privacy
In most situations, the Queen does deserve medical privacy. However, if the Queen is suffering from medical issues that may lead to an imminent constitutional change (diplomatic speak for “if the Queen is possibly sick enough that she might pass away relatively soon”), then the BuckPal staff has a duty to provide the broad details of said medical issues. This is for three reasons:
- It gives people time to make arrangements. I don’t mean funeral arrangements, as those have been planned to the minute for decades. The arrangements I mean are those of scheduling (don’t send anyone on a long/far away royal tour, make sure that Commonwealth representatives are adequately prepared in terms of condolence books, make sure that world leaders are aware of any vaccination/quarantine requirements in case they are needed in London in the near future). I’m 100% sure that there are general rules on those types of things in the Queen’s funeral plans, but there are more specific operations and plans that ramp up into full gear when things are imminent;
- It gives governments and economic institutions time to come up with plans to ensure that the UK and countries all over the globe will be able to deal with negative economic or security consequences. The Queen’s death and Charles’s ascension to the throne could lead to a new spate of republicanism and possible threats of violence in the UK, especially London. It could lead to a nationwide or even global economic downturn in the hours, days, and weeks following the Queen’s death (economic markets love stability, and losing a ruler of 70+ years, combined with the ascension of a new monarch whose reigning style we don’t know? that is a lot of instability); and
- It gives the public a chance to start reckoning with a new world, a one in which most people on the planet have only known one monarch of the United Kingdom for their entire lives. That’s a lot to get one’s head around. If everyone thinks that the Queen is absolutely fine and then we hear tragic news, that will be a lot more of a shock and we will have a lot more to reckon with than if we, the public, know that the Queen’s life is drawing to a close.
Also, let me say that when I argue for disclosure of the Queen’s health, I’m not saying that we should be privy to any specific details. We basically just need to know if she is actually resting, or if she is suffering from some sort of condition that might lead to her becoming very ill in the relatively near future.
Argument #2: The Queen’s staff doesn’t have to tell us everything
The Royal Household doesn’t need to tell the public/press everything, but I would argue that it does have a duty to be transparent about what is happening, especially in matters that may affect the line of succession. And the issue right now is that the Royal Household has told the public and the press things that are patently untrue. Several times! About several different members of the BRF! Examples:
- Announcing that Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, had gone into labour after Meghan had already delivered her first child;
- Not disclosing that Prince William had tested positive for COVID-19 (and had difficulty breathing!) until months after he had recovered;
- Saying that the Queen had been ordered to rest but not disclosing that Her Majesty had spent a night in hospital, when it had been assumed he had been resting at Windsor Castle;
- Not lowering the Royal Standard from Windsor Castle overnight while the Queen was in hospital.
It has become quite apparent from the reporters who cover the BRF that they are losing their patience with the Royal Household’s comms team:
Argument #3: The Queen is fine
I really hope that Her Majesty is fine, but…do we know with 100% certainty that she is? No, we do not. This relates to the above point about possibly not being able to trust the Royal Household. Behold the following exchange on Twitter between royal reporter Richard Palmer and a Twitter user. He’s right – we don’t know for sure if the Queen is actually just tired, or if there is some other condition she needed to go to hospital to get checked out. We don’t know if the Queen is recovering. We wouldn’t even know that Her Majesty had been admitted to hospital if the Royal Household hadn’t been scooped by the Sun.
Another thing about this that strikes me as odd is something that I pointed out on the blog when Prince Philip was admitted to hospital earlier this year:
- “Isn’t there a small but well-qualified medical team at Windsor (or stationed nearby) to deal with any illness or injury suffered by the Queen and/or Prince Philip? If Philip is feeling fine but needs to be in hospital for several days just for observation and rest, wouldn’t that be much more comfortably and easily done at Windsor, with the help of said medical team?
- And on that point, after Prince Charles and Prince William both suffered from COVID-19 last spring, wouldn’t the royal family have stocked up on any monitoring equipment it didn’t already have, knowing how quickly one of its members could become ill? Just as there’s a small medical office in the White House, I’d imagine that there would be something similar set up at Buckingham Palace. And with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip having moved to Windsor full-time quite a while ago, wouldn’t that all have been moved and set up by now?”
Those points still stand. Wouldn’t going to hospital mean something much more serious for the Queen than it would for you or I, given that she already has a full medical team at Windsor Castle?
Finally, recent development made me even more nervous. Yesterday, October 26th, the Royal Household released a statement saying that the Queen would no longer be attending the COP26 environmental summit in Glasgow, Scotland next week. From Buckingham Palace:
“Following advice to rest, the Queen has been undertaking light duties at Windsor Castle. Her Majesty has regretfully decided that she will no longer travel to Glasgow to attend the Evening Reception of COP26 on Monday, 1st November. Her Majesty is disappointed not to attend the Reception but will deliver an address to the assembled delegates via a recorded video message.”
Here are the reasons why this is strange:
- This had been on the calendar for weeks and BuckPal had been promoting the fact that the Queen, along with Charles, Camilla, Will, and Kate, would be there in full diplomatic mode. If, a few weeks ago, there had been ANY possible doubt about the Queen’s ability to make it to Glasgow, she wouldn’t have been announced so early and would have made a last-minute decision to attend and surprise and delight the delegates. Why on earth would Her Majesty choose to over-promise and under-deliver when it has always been her strategy to under-promise and over-deliver on appearances like this? That points to something having happened in the last 1-2 weeks that has impacted Her Majesty.
- Off the record reporting from royal journalists has included mention of how the Queen wasn’t keen to be driven the 900-odd miles round trip to Glasgow. I consider this very odd reasoning, given that the Queen undertook a 500-mile journey from Balmoral back down to Windsor Castle earlier this month and there are no reports that she was unhappy to do so. Also, from point 1, Her Majesty knew the amount of travel that would result from saying yes to attending COP26 before it was announced publicly. So again, something doesn’t feel right.
Let me know what you think. I expect a lot of “You’re overreacting!” messages, but it’s definitely worth talking about given the Queen’s political/diplomatic status and the potential ramifications if she is, in fact, not well. Can’t wait to hear what you think.
Thank you for your support!
Thank you to Eric in San Diego for supporting me on Patreon, and for sending me videos of pop queen Kylie Minogue!
Thanks for reading. And thank you specifically to Yankee Doodle on Twitter for your generous support!