Queen (87) scales back travel plans over long-haul flight fear
QUEEN Elizabeth is set to miss the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka, for the first time in 40 years, after Buckingham Palace confirmed it is reviewing the long-haul flights taken by the British monarch, who is now 87.
The palace confirmed Prince Charles will go to the meeting, which takes place every two years, in place of the queen who has attended every meeting since 1973.
Because of her advancing age, the Royal Household has begun limiting the number of long-haul flights she takes, though courtiers insist her diary is as busy as ever and played down any suggestion of health issues playing a part in the decision.
Despite her hospital stay earlier this year when she was treated for gastroenteritis, the queen remains in rude health and even went riding at Windsor on Friday.
But it has been an open secret in Royal circles for several months that she is not expected to make any more visits to the most far-flung corners of the Commonwealth, such as Australia and New Zealand.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "Any long-haul trips will be looked at on a case by case basis. The Duke of Edinburgh, for example, was in Canada two weeks ago. There is no suggestion that the queen's diary will become less busy.
"This is part of an ongoing process looking at the queen's long haul travel arrangements."
The spokesman compared the decision to last year's arrangements when other members of the royal family carried out overseas engagements for the Diamond Jubilee, while the queen and her husband travelled extensively throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
But the Palace said that in terms of events and visits in her diary, the queen was "doing as much as ever, and it is very much business as usual".
One other factor which may have been weighed up in deciding who should attend the Commonwealth summit was the fact that in recent years some Commonwealth countries have questioned whether Prince Charles should automatically become head of the Commonwealth when he becomes king. One alternative would be an elected head.
Prince Charles feels strongly that the role should be his, and his presence at the meeting as the queen's representative can only strengthen his case.
According to her official list of engagements, she has seven visits planned for the rest of this month, including visiting Cornwall on May 17 and Cambridge on May 23.
She also has six events planned for June, including a visit to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Kent.
Richard Fitzwilliams, a royal commentator, said he felt the move was very significant in light of the queen's personal commitment to the Commonwealth and a sign that care was now being taken to balance her workloads. He said: "Throughout her reign the queen has been absolutely dedicated to the Commonwealth.
"There's absolutely no doubt that if the queen isn't going to the meeting this is clearly a sign that at 87 she will have been advised that balancing her workloads is very important. Advancing age has its limitations. ( © Daily Telegraph, London).