Queen visits horse show after health concerns

·2-min read
The queen made an appearance at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, days after pulling out of the opening of parliament due to ill health (AFP/Ashley NEUHOF) (Ashley NEUHOF)

Queen Elizabeth II put in a rare public appearance on Friday, just days after ill health and old age forced her to pull out of the opening of the UK parliament for the first time in nearly 60 years.

The 96-year-old monarch, in a white blouse, blue cardigan and tinted glasses, was seen smiling as she arrived at the Royal Windsor Horse Show.

She spoke to a group of people through the open window of her Range Rover, and later donned a headscarf and used a walking stick to make her way to the royal box.

British media reports said the lifelong horse lover spent almost an hour at the parade ring at the show, which is near her Windsor Castle home west of London.

Buckingham Palace announced on Monday night that the queen would not officially open parliament on Tuesday -- the first time she had missed the event since 1963.

Officials blamed her absence on "episodic mobility problems" -- understood to be difficulties walking and standing -- that have dogged her since last year.

An unscheduled overnight hospital stay last October and frailty have seen her withdraw from a string of public engagements.

She was last seen in public at the end of March, at the Westminster Abbey memorial service for her late husband, Prince Philip.

At that event, she used a walking stick and required assistance to get to her seat.

Her dwindling appearances, plus a bout of Covid earlier this year, have fuelled concerns for her health in her record-breaking 70th year on the throne.

Four days of public celebrations for her Platinum Jubilee are planned for early June, including military parades and a public pageant, as well as picnics and a pop concert.

Her eldest son Prince Charles, 73, stood in at the state opening of parliament, in the clearest sign yet that her reign is coming to a close.

A YouGov survey for Times Radio conducted this week indicated a shift in public opinion towards the queen, who has repeatedly insisted her job is for life.

Polling of 1,990 people on Tuesday and Wednesday suggested one in three (34 percent) believed she should now retire -- up from 25 percent last month.

Just under half (49 percent) said she should remain queen, down 10 points from last month.

At the same time, Charles's stock has risen, with 36 percent now believing he will make a good king -- up four points from April.

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