Buckingham Palace was accused yesterday of misleading the nation over the state of the Queen’s health.
Commentators including BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell questioned whether the palace had undermined public trust by failing to reveal she had been taken to hospital. The 95-year-old monarch was admitted to King Edward VII’s on Wednesday afternoon and stayed there overnight for tests.
A two-day scheduled visit to Northern Ireland had to be cancelled at the last minute.
The palace’s communications team told journalists the Queen had remained at Windsor Castle.
However on Thursday night – more than 24 hours later – it confirmed she had been taken to the private hospital in London.
Buckingham Palace was accused yesterday of misleading the nation over the state of the Queen’s health
Unusually, the royal standard remained flying at Windsor on Wednesday, even after the Queen had left. The flag represents the sovereign and is flown only when she is present.
A royal source denied it was kept aloft as part of a cover-up and said the standard did not move to every building she visited. The source said Windsor had remained the Queen’s residence, despite the overnight trip. Mr Witchell insisted journalists – and the public – ‘weren’t given the complete picture’. He added: ‘The problem, it seems to me, is that rumour and misinformation always thrive in the absence of proper, accurate and trustworthy information.’
Peter Hunt, a royal commentator and former BBC journalist, claimed there had been a ‘failed attempt’ to cover up the hospital admission. He said: ‘The media’s faith in the veracity of royal communications will have been sorely tested by the failed attempt to hide the fact the Queen spent a night in hospital. Buckingham Palace can ill afford a breakdown in trust, given all they’re dealing with.’
Palace officials are generally reluctant to disclose information relating to health matters because the Royal Family is entitled to privacy and medical confidentiality.
But updates are usually provided if a senior royal is admitted to hospital, and the health of the monarch is of constitutional significance. As head of state, the Queen’s health has been subject to intense scrutiny, which increases as she gets older.
The revelation that she had needed to be seen by specialists in hospital – her first overnight stay for eight years – has fuelled public concern about her health.
The 95-year-old monarch was admitted to King Edward VII’s on Wednesday afternoon and stayed there overnight for tests
Mr Witchell told BBC Breakfast: ‘We are told that she’s back at Windsor Castle, undertaking light duties. Well, we must hope that we can place reliance on what the palace is telling us.’ Royal expert and biographer Ingrid Seward said: ‘They did mislead the media. I think they were trying to protect the Queen, because she would not have wanted a fuss, but it was misleading.’
Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, added: ‘The Queen does have a right to a certain degree of privacy, but on the other hand she’s head of state.
‘So does that entitle us to know exactly what ailments she may or may not have? It’s a very difficult one to get the balance right for the satisfaction of everybody.’
The Queen was discharged from hospital on Thursday and is now expected to remain in Windsor, where doctors have told her to rest. Buckingham Palace has not disclosed the nature of the tests carried out at King Edward VII’s and it is not known whether she will need any further examination or treatment.
She was taken from Windsor to hospital by car rather than by helicopter, and was expected to stay for a short period while she was seen by specialists. The decision to admit her overnight was taken for ‘practical reasons’, a source said.
A royal spokesman said on Thursday night : ‘Following medical advice to rest for a few days, the Queen attended hospital on Wednesday afternoon for some preliminary investigations, returning to Windsor at lunchtime [on Thursday], and remains in good spirits.’
The day before there was no mention of hospital. A senior royal aide argued that the monarch was entitled to privacy on medical issues and the palace had never given a ‘running commentary’ on her health. They maintained that tests and preliminary investigations should be kept private.
And they said that had she gone in for a more serious reason the public would probably have been told. However in 2018 the Queen secretly had surgery to remove a cataract.
After almost 70 years on the throne, the Queen is the world’s longest-reigning monarch and has largely enjoyed robust health. She has also faced a difficult 18 months, including the death of her husband Philip in April and the departure of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan.
The Queen was told to rest by doctors after carrying out a gruelling programme, including a major reception on Tuesday at Windsor. A source said future commitments, such as the COP26 climate summit, were still in the diary but would have to be confirmed nearer the time.
It is believed her office is waiting for the results of the preliminary tests and will see how the monarch feels.