The British monarch, 95, has put off multiple trips and engagements recently, and the latest cancellation has deepened anxiety about her health. She has now been out of sight since mid-October.
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LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II has sprained her back, Buckingham Palace said on Sunday, forcing her to miss a remembrance service that she had planned to attend after canceling multiple trips and other engagements over the past month because of poor health.
This latest bad turn will deepen Britain’s fears about the health of the queen, who is 95, lost her husband, Prince Philip, in April, and has been out of sight for one of the longest stretches of her reign, skipping trips to Northern Ireland and a United Nations climate conference in Glasgow.
Buckingham Palace announced the queen’s injury and withdrawal less than two hours before she was scheduled to appear at the ceremony, having signaled earlier on Sunday morning that she would be there. Her injury was not related to earlier medical guidance that she rest for at least two weeks, officials said.
The palace offered no additional details about the circumstances or severity of the queen’s back sprain, though an official said that she had not been hospitalized and hoped to continue carrying out “official light duties” in the coming week. The queen has curtailed public appearances on the advice of doctors after what palace officials described as exhaustion, following a busy autumn of events.
“Her Majesty is disappointed that she will miss the service,” the palace said in a two-paragraph statement on Sunday. “As in previous years, a wreath will be laid on Her Majesty’s behalf by the Prince of Wales.”
The dry language in the statement may not capture the depth of the disappointment for the queen. After being sidelined for almost a month — a rare absence in a nearly seven-decade reign — the queen had made it clear in recent days that she was determined to reappear in public at this ceremony. She had already scrapped attendance on Saturday at a festival at the Royal Albert Hall in London that pays tribute to those who died in war.
The remembrance service, which honors Britain’s war dead, is one of the most solemn events on her calendar. It is also of deep personal significance to the queen, who served in the auxiliary service as a driver and truck mechanic during World War II, when she was a young princess, and often speaks of the war as a unifying experience for British society.
The queen has missed the service only six times in the past 69 years, according to the palace — twice while she was pregnant and four times when she was on an official tour outside the British capital.
In recent years, her involvement has been limited to standing on a balcony overlooking the Cenotaph, a monument in Whitehall that honors fallen soldiers.
The ceremony went ahead on Sunday without the sovereign, but the pageantry took on even more solemnity than usual. Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, led dignitaries in laying wreaths at the Cenotaph, while his wife, Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall; and Prince William’s wife, Kate, the duchess of Cambridge, watched from the balcony, clad in black, with customary bright red poppies on their coats.
A crowd of onlookers, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his five predecessors, sang a poignant refrain of “God Save the Queen.” Afterward, an honor guard and veterans of Britain’s wars, distant and recent, marched gravely past the monument, their medals gleaming, even on a slate-gray morning.
The queen’s health problems began on Oct. 20 when she abruptly canceled a trip to Northern Ireland. The palace did not offer details about her condition, except to say that it was not related to Covid-19. She spent a night at King Edward VII’s Hospital in London for what officials said were tests, before returning to Windsor Castle.
Palace officials said that it appeared to be a case of overexertion by a monarch who returned to a grueling public schedule after spending more than a year in self-imposed quarantine at Windsor with her husband, Philip.
When Philip died at age 99, questions were raised about whether Elizabeth would recede from public view. But the queen surprised many by resuming a full schedule of ceremonies and other public appearances.
She presided over the opening of Parliament in May, entertained world leaders at a Group of 7 summit meeting in Cornwall in June, and played host to President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, at Windsor Castle.
The queen looked alert and energetic at those events, though a photograph showed her using a walking stick during a ceremony at Westminster Abbey. It was the first time she had done so publicly, with the exception of a period in 2003 and 2004 when she was recovering from knee surgery.
During her convalescence, the queen taped an address to the climate conference COP26 and conducted video calls with ambassadors. She recently spent a few days at Sandringham, her country estate near Norfolk, in eastern England, where she was photographed being driven around the grounds.
Sandringham is where Philip retired after giving up his official duties and where the queen traditionally assembles the royal family to celebrate Christmas. It is also where her father, George VI, and grandfather, George V, died.
Among the questions this year is whether Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, will be on hand. The queen has yet to meet the couple’s second child, a daughter named Lilibet, which was the queen’s childhood nickname.
Harry and Meghan left Britain for Southern California last year after a bitter split with the royal family — one of a string of family upheavals that have made the past year among the most trying of Elizabeth’s long reign.