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Queen returns to public duties for Remembrance Sunday service

<i>Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images</i><br/>Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is set to attend the annual Remembrance Sunday ceremony at London's Cenotaph memorial as the nation remembers its war dead
Getty Images
Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is set to attend the annual Remembrance Sunday ceremony at London's Cenotaph memorial as the nation remembers its war dead

By Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Max Foster, CNN

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is set to attend the annual Remembrance Sunday ceremony at London’s Cenotaph memorial as the nation remembers its war dead, her first public engagement since being advised to rest by doctors just over two weeks ago.

Buckingham Palace confirmed on Thursday that the 95-year-old monarch was well enough to attend.

“As in previous years, Her Majesty will view the Service from the balcony of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office building,” the palace statement read.

The Queen’s eldest son, Prince Charles — who turned 73 on Sunday — will later lay a wreath on his mother’s behalf, as he has done at each Remembrance Day event since 2017.

Charles’ wife, Camilla, will also attend the service, as will the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, and Princess Anne, among other family members.

After the service, Prince William will take the salute at the March Past of veteran organizations on Horse Guards Parade.

Earlier this week, Charles provided an update on his mother’s health during an engagement in south London. He reassured a curious bystander that she was “alright, thank you” in response to their question, according to multiple British newspapers.

It has been more than three weeks since the Queen attended a public event — when she hosted a reception for business leaders at Buckingham Palace ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. The day after, the sovereign abruptly canceled an imminent trip to Northern Ireland and spent a night in hospital for what a spokesman described at the time as “preliminary investigations.”

Since then and following her doctor’s orders, the royal household has scaled back her diary significantly. She has been mostly resting at Windsor, undertaking a few light duties by video link and phone.

She did however manage to head off for a long-planned weekend away, according to a royal source last week. Her mini-break had been in the diary for some time, with doctors giving her the all-clear to go to Sandringham by helicopter, according to The Mirror newspaper. She was understood to be traveling to her country estate to make preparations to welcome her family over Christmas, the report added.

Before that, Elizabeth was seen driving herself around her Windsor estate, in what will have been a reassuring sight to many royal-watchers.

While she may initially have been reluctant to slow down a fortnight ago, she made her intention to show up at the Cenotaph known by ensuring it was mentioned in the palace’s initial announcement.

Sunday’s commemorative event is one of the most significant dates in the Queen’s calendar each year. As head of the nation, part of her role is to be a unifying symbol for the country. She understands she is expected to represent the nation, and it’s a duty she has long devoted herself to entirely.

Another reason the monarch attaches such importance to the engagement lies in her role as commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces; she also lived through World War II while still a young princess. She knows that if she didn’t appear as she always has, her absence would be felt.

Despite ensuring her presence on Sunday, the Queen is heeding recent guidance from medical professionals to slow down. In Thursday’s statement, the palace added that: “Mindful of her doctors’ recent advice, The Queen has decided not to attend the General Synod Service and Opening Session on Tuesday 16th November. The Earl of Wessex will attend as planned.”

The Queen missing the service of the General Synod, the Church of England’s legislative body, in addition to the climate conference in Glasgow, are clear signs that the monarch will likely continue reducing her schedule as the year draws to a close.

“Moving forwards, especially as we move into the winter with Covid, we will see the Queen doing more zoom calls, less in-person meetings,” CNN historian and royal expert Kate Williams previously said. “But I think that as soon as the winter is over, she will be keen to get back on her feet, back out there meeting people. It’s just whether or not the doctors are going to agree with it.”

The royal family undertakes a number of engagements focused on recognizing the services of the British Armed Forces and commemorating the sacrifices of the nation’s servicemen and women in world wars and other conflicts.

On Saturday, Charles and Camilla led other members of the royal family at the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

The Duchess of Cornwall also represented the family when visiting the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey on Thursday for Armistice Day. Continuing a tradition begun in 1928, thousands of small wooden crosses, paper poppies and other tributes were laid in memory of fallen soldiers. The duchess viewed them before observing a two-minute silence.

She also visited the grave of the Unknown Warrior within the abbey and laid flowers — a custom established by the Duke of Edinburgh in years gone by.

CNN has launched Royal News, a new weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on the royal family, what they are up to in public and what’s happening behind palace walls. Sign up here.

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CNN’s David Wilkinson contributed to this report.

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