Her Majesty’s official job description has been quietly edited, highlighting how serious things are getting.
The devil, so the idiom goes, is in the details – but so it seems, is the queen’s job.
After all, it’s a job that lumped her together at age 25 and yet did with admirable conviction, somehow the monarchy through the advent of modernity, color television and the hashtag, while the empire (rightly ) crumbled.
We all know the broad strokes of what being a queen means: she’s a symbolic figurehead, opener of great bridges, and the only person who can’t hang the prime minister.
However, it turns out that Her Majesty has an actual job description and one that Buckingham Palace has been quietly tweaking behind the scenes.
Late last week, the palace released its annual Sovereign Grant Report, which is the lengthy document that details exactly how they spent the $153 million they received from the Crown Estate (through the government) last year to keep the gilded ship afloat. to keep.
But buried among details about the royals’ carbon footprint and how many tons of waste it produced, a startling admission about the queen’s future boiled down to this: The 96-year-old is no longer fit for the same job she did for the last one. seven decades.
For what may very well be the first time during her reign, the details, as set forth by the Palace, about what Her Majesty does have been rewritten, and her list of “official duties” has been trimmed down.
Last year’s Grant report, which I recommend reading if you ever suffer from persistent insomnia, describes eight key constitutional duties of the Queen, including “state opening of parliament” and “representative duties as head of state — paying and receiving state visits to and other heads of state.”
However, in this year’s report, an equally sleep-inducing doorstop, that list is gone, and under the “Head of State” section we get only this vague statement: “The Queen’s constitutional role encompasses a range of parliamentary and diplomatic duties.”
Then we come to the part of her job description as the “head of the nation”.
Last year this section said that “the monarchy provides an important sense of continuity and stability at a time of rapid social, cultural and technological change” and that “the regular rhythm of the monarchy reassures many people” – all this made it sound less like a lofty institution and more like a sweeping social security blanket.
As of 2021, these lofty goals were “aided” by “recurring traditional events such as the State Opening of Parliament, Trooping the Colour, Garter Day, the Royal Maundy Service, Holyrood Week and Royal Ascot Week”.
In the 2022 report, this list has been edited to remove the State Opening and the notable ‘but’ here is that of these remaining “traditional events”, Her Majesty missed all bar one – Holyrood Week – with Prince Charles taking over for his mother at the State Opening of Parliament, Trooping the Colour, Garter Day, the Royal Maundy Service and Royal Ascot Week.
Ditto that last year’s report said, in non-Covid times: “The Queen normally entertains about 139,000 people a year at garden parties, inaugurations, receptions, dinners and lunches as a way of recognizing people’s achievements and contributions. ”
The 2022 version now reads: “The Queen and other members of the Royal Family in fulfilling a program of tours, garden parties, receptions, investitures and other official entertainment.”
This may all sound a bit trivial and yawn-worthy, but don’t be fooled or bored: this is the first time since her health crisis began last October that the palace has explicitly admitted that Her Majesty can no longer do her full job. .
In addition, the palace has just admitted that things will probably never go back to the way they once were for Her Majesty.
The Queen, as we knew her before the pandemic and Prince Philip’s death, was a formidable, stoic presence who showed up with reassuring regularity in a riotous colored coat to cut a cake or see a tree planted or a new one. medical wing to inspect is gone.
This is Her Majesty’s reign which ends not with a bang, but with cunning words.
Sure, before anyone starts rummaging through their official Buckingham Palace face wash (what? You don’t have them? You can fix that here), of course, there’s a bluntly practical dimension to all of this. Her Majesty’s “episodic mobility issues” and anything else that might torment her even more clearly prevent her from performing her duties physically as sovereignly as she ever could. Courtiers and assistants will obviously have to economise with caution when it comes to the Queen’s time and energy going forward.
The added benefit of codifying this apparent shift in the non-peer ‘program’ is that it will also help manage audience expectations going forward.
But what really matters here is the symbolism, which is, after all, the bread and butter of the monarchy.
What the palace has just done is officially the sign that the Queen’s era is a visible part of British life. The queen as a comforting constant is largely gone.
Of course, we can expect a regular stream of photos and short videos aired through the Queen’s official channels of her playful Zooming with the occasional Governor General or the bizarre Franken engagement where Her Majesty accepts the diplomatic credentials of some new Ambassador arrived via video call.
But is a reign that is conducted almost exclusively behind closed doors really a reign?
All this is completely virgin territory.
The end of June, The sun revealed that, after a long hiatus from prescription riding, the Queen is back in the saddle enjoying some “gentle rides” on her ponies.
And that is something remarkable about Her Majesty: she has a certain wonderful stubbornness of mind.
Obviously, the Queen is in no way ready to give up the reins.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with over 15 years of experience working with some of Australia’s leading media titles.