Will Queen Elizabeth Ever Retire?

The health of 95-year-old Queen Elizabeth II has been called into question over the last few weeks for a variety of reasons. First, she appeared in public using a walking stick twice in a matter of a few days — first at a ceremony for the UK armed forces at Westminster Abbey and then at the opening of the Welsh parliament.

There have also been reports of her no longer being able to walk her dogs (via The Daily Mail), and she also didn't go to church on a recent Sunday, something that rarely happens, according to the Independent.

Buckingham Palace has also confirmed that the Queen recently spent a night in the hospital for what were called "preliminary investigations" into her health, and she also canceled a trip to Ireland (via CNN). However, worry truly set in when she canceled an important trip to Glasgow, Scotland, for COP26, a climate meeting of world leaders. 

Even with making virtual appearances, the news that her doctors have asked her to rest for two more weeks (via CNN) has led to questions of whether the Queen will either step back from her royal duties or step down from the throne altogether, considering her age and apparent ailing health.

Why Prince Charles doesn't perform more royal duties

While the British monarchy is prepared for what happens when Queen Elizabeth dies — with a plan called Operation London Bridge — her recent health issues and willingness to cancel plans on doctor's orders have led many to speculate whether Prince Charles will ascend to the throne before his mother dies.

The Daily Beast tackles the subject of whether the Queen should have allowed Charles to go to Glasgow instead, especially since the topic of climate change is one of his pet projects and has been for years. Royal correspondent Tom Sykes explains that, if Charles had done so, it would have looked like he was trying to take his mother's place too soon. While he did attend the summit, it wasn't as his mother's replacement as he has been playing a more junior role among leaders.

Sykes also put the kibosh on the idea of the Queen stepping down to allow Prince William to become king rather than Charles, as Charles' son is more popular than he is. "That's not how a constitutional monarchy works and that fantasy is not going to happen," he wrote in the Daily Beast.

Will Queen Elizabeth's role begin to change?

Royal experts believe that even if Queen Elizabeth does not step down from the throne, her overall role as the Britain's reigning monarch may change. "I think there will be a reassessment and possibly a slight gear change in the kind of work the queen does, the distances she travels," Sunday Times royal correspondent Roya Nikkhah told Radio 4's "Today" show. "I think there will be a gear change ... I think there will be a constant review going forwards now" (via The Daily Beast).

However, Buckingham Palace has refused to comment on whether the Queen stepping back from travel, duties, and public appearances will become a regular thing going forward or is just temporary due to this unspecified health matter. However, 21st-century technology at least made it possible for the Queen to make a short virtual appearance at Cop26 where she delivered a video speech urging world leaders to act on the climate crisis. "It is the hope of many that the legacy of this summit — written in history books yet to be printed — will describe you as the leaders who did not pass up the opportunity, and that you answered the call of those future generations," she said (via NBC News).

Queen Elizabeth has a historical reason for hanging on to the throne

For much of Queen Elizabeth's life, her dedication to the throne she ascended to when she was only in her 20s was defined by what happened in England when she was still a child. She was never born to be queen, as she was the daughter of the second son who was not born to be king. However, her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne after only 11 months when he married American divorcée Wallis Simpson (via History). His younger brother and Elizabeth's father, George VI, then ascended to the throne with his daughter as his heir apparent. Since then, the Queen has lived under the idea that you do not abdicate such a solemn duty.

As The Daily Beast points out, even her speech to the nation when she was still a 21-year-old princess foreshadowed the seven decades to come. "I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong."