“The Queen greatly enjoyed today’s Birthday Parade and Flypast but did experience some discomfort,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement Thursday.
“Taking into account the journey and activity required to participate in tomorrow’s National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, Her Majesty with great reluctance has concluded that she will not attend,” it continued.
Last year, officials moved quickly to ease worries over the monarch’s health when she canceled a trip to Northern Ireland. Fears were immediately put to rest when a source close to the palace told CNN she was in “good spirits,” but it then emerged that she had spent the night in hospital for what a palace spokesperson called “preliminary investigations.”
Thursday’s announcement was not completely unexpected. Even before jubilee events began, a royal source told CNN the monarch’s presence would “not be confirmed until much nearer the time or on the day itself.” And while the Queen’s absence was surely felt in the cathedral Friday, she was watching the proceedings on television from Windsor Castle, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson told CNN.
“The Queen will be disappointed to miss today because her faith is so important to her. It always has been,” said CNN’s royal historian Kate Williams.
“Her role as Head of the Church of England. It’s not always what we think about when we think about the Queen …. but it means so much to her. She swore to God on the day of her coronation … so it’ll mean a lot to her that there is this service and of course, she only couldn’t come here if that’s really absolutely the case.”
Four days of celebrations to mark her seven decades on the throne began Thursday, with the Trooping the Color — a centuries-old traditional military spectacle involving 1,500 soldiers and officers, 400 musicians and 250 horses.
The Queen did not fill the monarch’s ceremonial role of riding on horseback — her son and heir, Prince Charles, filled in — but she delighted fans with her presence, looking on from the palace’s famous balcony at a sea of red, white and blue as huge, flag-waving crowds flocked to the Mall to see her and her family. In the evening she participated in a beacon lighting ceremony from Windsor Castle.
Festivities will also include Friday’s service, a concert at the palace on Saturday and a pageant on Sunday.