Just hours before the royal family and hundreds of others turn out to remember Prince Philip at a service at Westminster Abbey, there remains doubt about whether the Queen will join them.
The royals, military personnel and people from hundreds of charities will be among the congregation at the Abbey at 8.30pm (AEDT) on Tuesday to pay tribute at a memorial service for the Duke of Edinburgh.
But Buckingham Palace has remained tight-lipped leading up to the service about whether the 95-year-old monarch will be there.
Due to COVID rules at the time, only 30 mourners were allowed to attend Prince Philip’s funeral at Windsor Castle after he died in April last year, aged 99.
Tuesday’s service is intended to be a larger-scale celebration of the duke’s life, with up to 1800 people there.
The Queen has reportedly been heavily involved in selecting music and floral arrangements inspired by the couple’s wedding service at the same venue in 1947. She was also crowned at the Abbey just six years later.
Last week, the palace confirmed members of the royal family would attend Tuesday’s service – but pointedly did not clarify who.
The Queen is believed to be very keen to attend the service for her beloved husband. On their golden anniversary, she described Philip, who was known for his no-nonsense attitude and a propensity for the occasional gaffe, as her “strength and stay”.
The uncertainty over whether she will make it has only prompted further speculation about the monarch’s declining health, which has caused her to be sidelined for many major commitments in recent months.
Sidelined for months
The first clear signs of the Queen’s declining health emerged in the days before the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow last October.
She spent a night in hospital for “preliminary investigations” and then was advised to rest for two weeks, the palace said.
The monarch withdrew from a planned address to world leaders at the summit. Instead, a pre-recorded message shown in her absence.
The Queen extended her rest period after “having sprained her back” ahead of the Remembrance Sunday service on November 14.
Her health again took a turn for the worst this year when she tested positive for coronavirus in February, reportedly suffering “mild cold-like symptoms”.
However, more than a month later, she is still yet to return to public duties, having carried out only a handful of virtual engagements since her diagnosis.
Most recently, she cancelled her attendance at the Commonwealth Day Service on March 14 for the first time in her 70-year reign, citing mobility issues.
Those who will be there
Unlike last year’s small service for Prince Philip, Tuesday’s memorial service will have a fuller guest list.
Among them will be the Queen and Philip’s second son, Prince Andrew. It will be his first public outing since he made an undisclosed payment to settle a US lawsuit over allegations he sexually assaulted a teenage girl decades ago, claims he denied.
Andrew is believed to be attending with his daughters, princesses Eugenie and Beatrice.
Joining them will be other senior royals, including the Queen’s other children, Anne, Edward and Charles. There will also be foreign kings and queens, friends of the late duke, politicians including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, military figures and more than 500 representatives from charities and other organisations he championed.
“A man of rare ability and distinction, rightly honoured and celebrated, he ever directed our attention away from himself,” David Hoyle, the Dean of Westminster, will say of Philip.
Some of the couple’s grandchildren are also expected to attend, although the palace has not confirmed who.
One grandson who definitely won’t be there is Los Angeles-based Prince Harry. He and wife Meghan Markle will skip the ceremony amid Harry’s legal action against the British Home Office over his security arrangements in Britain.