Is Queen Elizabeth Planning to Retire When She Turns 95 in Favor of Son Prince Charles?
At 93, she confronted her 59-year-old son following his shocking interview about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and he said he would “step back” from his royal duties. Less than 25 minutes after Andrew’s bombshell statement, the Queen was seen carrying out a public engagement, even able to quip about the date: her 72nd wedding anniversary.
The Queen’s steadfastness during this outing was significant in terms of highlighting her position as head of the family. But as the furor about Andrew grew and more organizations distanced themselves from him, it also emerged that she leaned on her son and heir Prince Charles, 71, and grandson Prince William, 37, for advice and counsel. That brought renewed reports of the Queen wanting to pull back from public life in favor of Charles — in 18 months’ time when the Queen turns 95.
The claim first came up in a respected biography of the Prince of Wales, by Robert Jobson, in fall 2018. In Charles At Seventy, he wrote that it was likely the Queen will “trigger a period of regency,” in which she will grant her eldest son the “full power to reign.” Jobson wrote. [A regent is a person appointed to rule because the monarch is unable.]
“One senior aide told me that the Queen has given the matter of her passing hears considerable thought and believes, that, if she is still alive at ninety-five she will consider passing the reign to Charles,” Jobson continued.
A spokesman from Prince Charles’s office tells PEOPLE on Thursday that there haven’t been any such discussions. “There are no plans for any change in arrangements at the age of 95 — or any other age,” the spokesman says.
A palace source adds there were some over-interpretations going on about Charles’s role in the decision to downgrade Andrew’s public role in the wake of his disastrous interview with the BBC, reiterating that it was the Queen’s decision to have Andrew step back from his royal duties.
Buckingham Palace will not comment on the record. Family insiders, however, point out that the Queen made a solemn declaration when she was a young woman about serving the monarchy for her entire life. She said “when she was 21 that she was going to devote her life to the nation, and she has kept that vow to the letter,” the late Hon. Mrs. Margaret Rhodes, the Queen’s first cousin, previously told PEOPLE.
Sally Bedell Smith, respected biographer of both the Queen and Charles, points out there is a process under the various Regency acts outlining a very specific process: It requires the determination by family, senior courtiers and civil servants that the monarch is unable to carry out her duties. Bedell Smith adds, “The Queen can’t just wave a queen wand and say Charles you are my regent. It’s not her call – and it’s not his call.”
Concessions have been made to the Queen’s age in recent years, though. She has handed over foreign travel to Prince Charles and his siblings. Charles, Prince William and Princess Anne also carry out energy-draining investitures on her behalf. (In fact, Charles did one at the palace on Thursday.) William has also carried out an audience recently and others help entertain foreign guests. Future queen Kate Middleton was on-hand on Thursday to welcome world leaders alongside Queen Elizabeth at a palace reception in honor of the 70th anniversary of NATO. Events such as laying wreaths at the memorials in London for veterans are also now carried out by Charles, with the Queen choosing to watch instead.
Bedell Smith adds, “Under the constitution, only the Queen can give a Royal Assent to legislation, only she can appoint a Prime Minster and be consulted and encourage and warn in dealings with the Prime Minister. There is a whole range of functions that go on behind the walls of the palace.”
Amid speculation of retirement, a palace source insists the monarch’s schedule continues to be a full one.
“The Queen is as busy as ever in terms of audiences, investitures and meetings. It is business as usual,” the source says.
But experienced royal writer Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty, point outs, “It is unchartered territory — in that we have never had a monarch who has lived as long. So there is no precedent.
“I don’t think it would be unreasonable to step back at the age of 95 – she would still be queen but would be enjoying more downtime. And given that she could live as long as her mother [who was 101], I think it is possible she could consider [a Regency].”