In a move seen by many as a prelude to a full handover of duties, Prince Charles stood in for his mother Queen Elizabeth at London’s Remembrance Day ceremony.
Charles laid a wreath at Whitehall’s Cenotaph in central London on behalf of 91-year-old Queen as she watched the service from a balcony.
Breaking with her usual custom of placing the wreath herself, the Queen asked her eldest son to take on the role, in part because of the demands of the ceremony for someone in their 90s.
The Queen has missed the wreath-laying ceremony just six times in her 65-year reign.
On four of those occasions she was on foreign visits: to Ghana in 1961, Brazil in 1968, Kenya in 1983 and South Africa in 1999.
She also missed the ceremonies in 1959 and 1963, ahead of the births of her two youngest children, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
A two-minute silence was held at 11am local time and wreaths were laid at the foot of Britain’s main war memorial by senior royals and political leaders including Prime Minister Theresa May and the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.
Royal historian Hugo Vickers said the Queen had slightly stumbled during last year’s service.
“One of the most important things with the Queen as she gets older is not to put her in any situation where she might be uncomfortable or things might be difficult,” he told Reuters.
“It requires a certain amount of standing around and then it involves the queen carrying something quite heavy and walking backwards.”
But he rejected the notion that it symbolised something more significant, saying it was “another step that we realise that we have an ageing monarch, and it’s very important that we should not put too much pressure on her”.
The head of state has been gradually reducing her workload and younger royals, including the 68-year-old Charles, have been taking up some of her duties.
The Queen’s 96-year-old husband, Prince Philip, retired from public life in August but was keen to attend the annual ceremony, which commemorates the fallen of two World Wars and later conflicts.
The night before the ceremony, Kate Middleton shrugged off any morning sickness to join the Queen and Prince Philip, without her husband, at an annual musical Remembrance Day tribute at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Prince William was on official duty at a the Australia vs Wales rugby match in Cardiff and was unable to attend the event, while Prince Harry was attending the England vs Argentina rugby match.
– With AAP