Despite failing health, Queen Elizabeth II carried on with official duties right up until the end

Despite failing health, Queen Elizabeth II carried on with official duties right up until the end

The last public images of Queen Elizabeth II showed her at her preferred home at Balmoral Castle, walking with a cane, two days before she died. 

The Queen sat on the throne of the United Kingdom for just over 70 years, making her the longest-serving head of state at the time of her death and the second-longest reigning monarch in history.

She lived to 96, and remained in relatively good health throughout her long life, 73 years of which she spent alongside her husband, Prince Philip.

Some minor health incidents marked the beginning of her 70s, including a bout with the flu in 1993 and a horse-riding accident in 1994 which left her with a broken wrist.

She briefly used a walking stick in 2004 after knee surgery, and spent a night in hospital in 2013 with gastroenteritis symptoms.

As she got older she resisted handing over official duties to other family members, believing they could only be carried out by the monarch.

She regularly appeared at public events and met foreign and domestic political leaders, making it clear she intended to carry on in the job until the end of her life.

Despite failing health, Queen Elizabeth II carried on with official duties right up until the end
Queen Elizabeth and her son Prince Charles watch the proceedings at the annual Braemar Highland Gathering in Braemar, Scotland in 2019.(Reuters: Russell Cheyne )

She also retained control over much of the royal family’s business. She made sure Charles’s wife Camilla would receive the title of Queen Consort, stripped her son Prince Andrew of his royal duties over child sexual abuse allegations, and navigated the controversy following a public falling out with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan.

It was only recently, after Prince Philip’s death in April last year, that her own health issues began to affect her ability to fulfil her official duties.

Experiencing ‘episodic mobility issues’

From late 2021 the Queen began to suffer what Buckingham Palace called “episodic mobility issues”, and was seen using a walking stick on October 12 during a visit to Westminster Abbey.

The Queen, dressed in purple, walks with a walking stick inside Westminster Abbey.
Queen Elizabeth arrives at Westminster Abbey with a walking stick to mark the Centenary of the Royal British Legion on October 12, 2021.(Reuters: Frank Augstein)

Later that month she cancelled a planned visit to Northern Ireland after doctors told her to rest for a few days.

She nevertheless that month rejected the “Oldie of the Year” award, her assistant private secretary telling The Oldie magazine: “Her Majesty believes you are as old as you feel. As such the Queen does not believe she meets the relevant criteria to be able to accept, and and hopes you will find a more worthy recipient.”

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