What if Queen Elizabeth Were Too Ill to Carry Out Her Duties?
After the news of Queen Elizabeth’s positive coronavirus test on Sunday, people expressed concern about the health of the extremely popular sovereign, as well as about the future of the monarchy, which has been struggling with scandals major and minor.
According to Buckingham Palace, if the queen needs to suspend her official duties because of illness or because she is abroad, two or more counselors of state can act on her behalf.
These counselors include the sovereign’s spouse — which does not apply to the queen, as her husband, Prince Philip, died last year — and the next four people in the line of succession, who are appointed when they turn 21. The four counselors are currently Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Prince William and Prince Harry.
But royal experts say that among them, only Prince Charles and Prince William were likely to take up some responsibilities.
Prince Andrew was stripped of public duties and military titles after a lawsuit accusing him of sexual assault was allowed to proceed. He has since settled.
Peter Hunt, a formal royal correspondent for the BBC, wrote on Twitter that the “public won’t stomach Prince Andrew stepping up.”
And Prince Harry is not in Britain, having moved his family to California.
Victoria Howard, a royal expert and the founder of the news website The Crown Chronicles, said that Harry “is having his own issue,” with his and his family’s security. “I think he wouldn’t come back,” she said.
This past week, London’s Metropolitan Police announced an investigation into a charity led by Prince Charles. He has denied any knowledge of the alleged crimes and Ms. Howard said that unless the police discovered any awareness or crime, the investigation would not hamper his ability to perform royal duties.
After the announcement of the queen’s infection, Buckingham Palace issued a series of reassurances about her health and ability to work. The palace said in a statement that she was experiencing only mild symptoms and was going to “continue light duties.” Shortly after the announcement of the positive test, the palace said that the queen had sent a congratulatory message to the British curling teams, after the women’s team secured a gold medal and the men took silver at the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Despite the encouraging signs, the coronavirus infection added new concerns about the health of the queen, who is 95 and recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne.
Appearing with a cane this week, she joked with visitors about her impeded movement.
Robert Jobson, a royal biographer, said he was confident that no replacement would be necessary for the queen because Buckingham Palace said she had only mild symptoms. If her situation were serious, he said, “they would have just said she had contracted Covid.”
But he added that given her age, some worries remained.
“If any 95-year-old, nearly 96, contracts Covid,” Mr. Jobson said, “it’s a cause of some concern.”