Social distancing measures will be in place for many months, perhaps even for a couple of years, meaning everyday life will remain disrupted for the foreseeable future. In April, The Queen celebrated her 94th birthday – a moment which some royal commentators have mooted may be her last before retirement.
It has been widely reported in the media that the monarch could make her eldest son, Prince Charles, Prince Regent once she reaches the age of 95.
In a 2017 column for the London Evening Standard, royal commentator Robert Jobson said that Her Majesty “has hinted that she would consider a Prince Charles Regency at 95.”
This would be in line with the Duke of Edinburgh who retired in 2017 at the age of 96.
If this does come to fruition, it is possible that we may have already seen some of the last engagements that The Queen will conduct.
So, could this happen? Is it possible for The Queen to hand over her delegation of duties without actually abdicating?
The short answer is yes. Such a situation would occur where The Queen is unable to fulfil her duties and responsibilities for whatever reason.
The last time Britain had a Regent was in the early 1800s, when King George III was unable to carry out his duties due to mental illness. His son, the future George IV, took over the King’s responsibility under the Regency Act.
The Regency Act 1937 made way for a regent to step in should a monarch become incapacitated. Three or more people such as the monarch’s spouse, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls must put in writing that the Regent will perform the duties of the monarch until a time which they are fit.
The act does also say that this is only to last until the monarch is able to resume their duties, so should The Queen make Charles Prince Regent an addendum would have to be made for this new circumstance
Speaking previously to Royal Central, Phil Dampier, who has been writing about The Royal Family for 30 years, says that The Queen will only consider a regency if she became seriously ill.
He says: “The Queen will certainly never abdicate. At the moment she is in excellent health and so she won’t be giving this serious thought right now. In fact, I know she has told friends that she wants to live to 100 like her mother.
“The only reason a regency would ever be contemplated if is she became seriously ill, either mentally or physically. But I don’t believe she would consider an artificial cut off time such as reaching 95. She will consider the situation as each year passes.”
It is perhaps worth looking at the words Her Majesty gave on the occasion of her 21st birthday, as well as her address to Parliament in 2012.
On her 21st birthday in 1947, The Queen said: “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.”
Her speech to Parliament during the Diamond Jubilee further reaffirmed this message, saying: “I have been privileged to witness some of that history and, with the support of my family, rededicate myself to the service of our great country and its people now and in the years to come.”
All things considered, it is extremely unlikely that Her Majesty will retire at the age of 95, particular during the global health emergency where millions of people are looking to the monarch for inspiration.
Buckingham Palace has declined to comment on these reports.