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Queen Elizabeth II

A timeline of The Queen’s health

Following the news that The Queen has reluctantly cancelled a two-day visit to Northern Ireland on Wednesday after doctors advised her to rest up, Royal Central is taking a look back at a timeline of Her Majesty’s health.

The Queen has luckily enjoyed good health over her 69-year reign, though there have been times when she has required hospitalisation or operations and a step back from her engagements. Today, Royal Central is exploring some of these moments.

The Queen had a planned cataract surgery in May 2018—and the public only found out after she was photographed wearing light-sensitive sunglasses in the ensuing weeks. Buckingham Palace noted that it was a short, planned procedure that had taken place at King Edward VII’s Hospital in London.

In 2016, The Queen missed the traditional Christmas festivities at Sandringham for the first time in almost 30 years.

The Queen and Prince Philip had both been dealing with colds in the lead-up to the holiday, with their annual train trip up to King’s Lynn in Norfolk cancelled on 21 December owing to their health. However, the next day, Buckingham Palace announced that the royals had travelled up to the Sandringham Estate via helicopter.

While Prince Philp recovered in time for Christmas Day’s church service at the St. Mary Magdalene Church on the estate, The Queen was still experiencing the symptoms of a heavy cold and stayed back at the house.

Buckingham Palace noted that “The Queen continues to recover from a heavy cold and will stay indoors to assist with her recovery.

 “Her Majesty will participate in the Royal Family Christmas celebrations during the day.”

She later missed the New Year’s Day church service—another staple on her calendar—though her daughter, Princess Anne, told those gathered outside that her mother was feeling better. The Queen would be seen in public for the first time on 7 January, attending a church service.

The Queen was most recently hospitalised in March 2013 as a precaution against a bout of gastroenteritis. She travelled to the King Edward VII Hospital in London via private car, with all of her engagements—including a planned official visit to Rome—cancelled for the foreseeable future.

Buckingham Palace released a statement saying, “As a precaution, all official engagements for this week will regrettably be either postponed or cancelled.”

The Queen was discharged the following day.

In 2003, The Queen bookended the year with knee surgeries. On 13 January, The Queen underwent a brief operation to repair torn cartilage in her right knee after twisting it at the Newmarket Race Course in Suffolk shortly before the holidays.

The Queen recuperated at Sandringham before resuming her engagements.

Later in the year, on 12 December, she had a planned surgery to repair torn cartilage on her left knee—which Buckingham Palace officials stressed was not a result of her earlier injury.

A spokesperson said: “The Queen is expected to leave hospital some time during the weekend, and she should be fully active again within a few weeks. The Queen will spend Christmas with her family at Sandringham as usual.

“The operation was a planned one. Following the surgery on The Queen’s other knee earlier this year, doctors decided that surgery was also required on her left knee.

“The decision on the timing of the operation was made to minimise the impact on The Queen’s commitments, and to enable her to continue her recovery at Sandringham over the Christmas and New Year period.”

And before that, The Queen last major health issue with The Queen occurred on 15 January 1994, when she broke her wrist in a riding accident at Sandringham. Buckingham Palace noted that her horse tripped while riding on the grounds, and that she fell and fractured her scaphoid bone.

In fact, The Queen did not realise it was broken until nearly a day afterwards. ″It is not a serious break, it is just an inconvenient thing. It was thought just to be a bruise to start with and the break was not diagnosed until nearly 24 hours afterwards,” said palace officials.

The Queen was spotted in a wrist cast and using a chic blue scarf to wrap her arm in when she resumed royal engagements.

On Wednesday morning, Buckingham Palace issued a brief statement noting that The Queen had been reluctant to cancel the Northern Ireland visit, but that she was in good spirits. They also stressed that this cancellation is not due to any COVID-related illness, just a bid for rest.

In recent weeks, The Queen has been spotted using a walking stick—the first time since she had knee surgery in 2003—and there are reports that her doctors have advised her to cut back on imbibing alcohol.

About author

Jess Ilse is the Assistant Editor at Royal Central. She specialises in the British, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Royal Families and has been following royalty since Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. Jess has provided commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Jess works in communications and her debut novel THE MAJESTIC SISTERS will publish in Fall 2024.