The Queen and Remembrance Sunday

The Queen will not lay a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday this year. It's been announced that Elizabeth II will instead watch the ceremony from a balcony overlooking Whitehall while the Prince of Wales places her tribute, on behalf of the nation, at the foot of the memorial to those who have died for their country. It is a major moment in the reign of Britain's longest serving monarch.

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The Queen has missed the service at the Cenotaph before but this is a new departure. For the first time she will be present but as an observer as her son and heir performs one of the central acts of the royal year.

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It is understood that the Queen's decision reflects another major change in the Royal Family's life this year. The Duke of Edinburgh retired from public life in August but he will attend the Remembrance Sunday commemoration, watching from a balcony overlooking Whitehall. The Queen wants to be at his side and so the 91 year old monarch and her 96 year old consort will watch their son, just days short of his 68th birthday, take on a responsibility filled with symbolism and significance.

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The Prince of Wales is performing more of the roles belonging to his mother, undertaking overseas visits on her behalf. But taking the helm at this most symbolic of national acts is another matter altogether. The service at the Cenotaph is an integral part of British life and a bedrock of the House of Windsor. It was created by the Queen's grandfather, George V, and in the almost 100 years since, the head of the House of Windsor has led the nation in remembrance. Now, it is time to change.

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That doesn't alter the fact that the Queen clearly deeply feels the pain and loss commemorated at the Cenotaph and her thoughts and prayers will be with those gone and those they leave behind as much this year as any. But the sight of Elizabeth II watching on while another performs this most solemn duty will have a significance few will fail to see.

Photo credit: BBC TV still.


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