Queen Elizabeth has spent most of her 70-year reign at Buckingham Palace, “living above the shop”, as royal watchers like to put it.
But it was revealed this week by The Sunday Times that the 95-year-old monarch has moved on and has no plans to ever return.
And on Friday it was confirmed that the Queen would not be attending Monday’s Commonwealth service – something near and dear to her heart – more, it seems, mobility concerns.
A statement said she had asked her eldest son and heir apparent, Prince Charles, to represent her at the service at Westminster Abbey, adding: “The Queen will pursue other scheduled engagements, including in-person audiences, in the coming week.”
This all comes amid a rush to plan Charles’s ascension to the throne, according to The Post.
Like a royal chess game, other family members are already planning their future moves for when Charles becomes king.
“People have been a little more focused on transitioning since last fall with the queen’s fluctuating health,” Majesty magazine editor Joe Little said.
Courtiers have been planning round-the-clock celebrations for his platinum jubilee in July, while another team has also been working on Charles’ eventual membership.
“The transition has been planned behind the scenes for several years,” Little said, adding that secret arrangements for the transition are in place. “Contrary to [the Queen’s father] King George VI, who died quicker than expected and without much preparation, is well planned and orchestrated.
Her Majesty’s exit from Buckingham Palace of course leaves the door open for Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, to move in.
“I’ve heard for years that Charles had no intention of living at Buckingham Palace, and that he wanted to open it up more to the public… The idea was that it would be used for official events, but not as a residence,” Little said. .
“But lately the line seems to be that it will definitely be the Sovereign’s London residence because it’s the symbol of the British monarchy.”
Buckingham Palace, which has been the official residence of British sovereigns in London since 1837, is halfway through a massive $483m (£369m) 10-year overhaul.
Queen Elizabeth had originally only planned to leave her private apartments temporarily and move to another part of the palace.
Her bedrooms in the north wing are the last part of the building to be refurbished and all of the work will not be completed until 2027, when the Queen will be 101 years old.
“There are reports that Charles was involved in the renovation plans as if he was going to live there,” said Little, who remains unconvinced. “When you’re in your mid-70s, do you really want to raise the sticks and move from Clarence House to Buckingham Palace?”
Nevertheless, Charles was reportedly consulted about the apartments he and Camilla would occupy. They currently live at Clarence House, the former home of the Queen Mother, just down the road from Buckingham Palace.
Her Majesty has lived in Windsor since leaving London at the start of the pandemic to self-isolate with her husband Prince Philip, who died in April 2021.
“Windsor is so much nicer to live in than Buckingham Palace,” Hugo Vickers, a royal author and Berkshire deputy lieutenant who knows the Queen, told The Post. He explained how his quarters were in a hallway on the first floor, with staff offices below. “It’s like an Edwardian hotel – and very lively above the desk.”
“There are private apartments, quite ordinary,” said Little: “There’s a misconception that private rooms are exactly the same as cabins – far from it – they’re much smaller, more intimate They are welcoming rather than lavish.
Vickers said the Queen had “always been the happiest at Windsor” with her ponies. While she is now set to live out the rest of her days there, other members of her family are planning to move nearby, including her grandson, Prince William, and his wife, Catherine (Kate) Middleton. .
A source familiar with the Cambridges, who currently split their time between their London home at Kensington Palace and their weekend estate at Amner Hall in Norfolk, confirmed to the Post: “Central London will not be their HQ. They are looking for the best place for their young family in Windsor and Berkshire.
“Catherine’s parents, Mike and Carole, are only a few miles away in the village of Bucklebury, while Catherine’s sister, Pippa, and her husband, James, are also looking for a new country home. . The Middletons are all so close and William loves them… and of course this move will allow William and Catherine to take on a much bigger role in the royal family.
Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park would be an ideal option for the Cambridges. But the disgraced Prince Andrew still lives there, paying just $339 (£250) a week in rent on his 75-year lease. The 30-room house is believed to be worth at least $40m (£30m).
As one royal watcher put it: “It seems unlikely he’ll want to give it up.”
Insiders told the Telegraph the Cambridges, who have been seen visiting area schools for their three children, have their sights set on Fort Belvedere, a home at the southern end of Windsor Great Park where the King Edward VIII signed his abdication papers in 1936.
However, The Post learns that this would have now been ruled out as too small for the Cambridges.
As the 2014 Sovereign Grant report revealed, renovations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s 1A apartment at Kensington Palace cost taxpayers $7.6m (£4.5m) .
“William and Kate had said in the past that they planned to stay at 1A. I think they wanted to be careful about publicity about how much money it costs to renovate,” the royal watcher said. “But change is inevitable.”
Indeed, today more than ever, the royal family is aware of the sands of time. As The Post revealed, Prince Harry, the Queen’s California-based grandson, has a memoir due for publication at the end of the year. It would be pushed back out of respect if she were to die before then, a senior publishing source told the Post this week, adding, “We are planning for all eventualities.”
The Queen had to scrap a trip to Northern Ireland in October. It was later revealed that she had been admitted to King Edward VII Hospital in London.
“We still don’t know what the issue was that prevented her from going to Northern Ireland. Her health has had its ups and downs since then,” Little said.
She is also expected to attend a memorial for Prince Philip on March 29, along with other members of the royal family. “If she’s not there, then there’s clearly cause for concern,” Little noted.
This week, looking somewhat frail but resilient, Queen Elizabeth met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Windsor Castle. It was her first in-person engagement since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on Feb. 20.
For now, the palace is doing everything possible to get her to her platinum jubilee, celebrating 70 years as queen.
“Everyone is very aware that she hasn’t been in great health,” Vickers said. “For the platinum jubilee, it only needs to be seen on the balcony for a photo.”