Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II seems set to gradually hand over charge to her son and heir to the throne Prince Charles as it emerged that the two will embark on an effective “job share” from this year.
The press offices of the 87-year-old Queen and the Prince of Wales are to be merged, in a further sign of preparations for the day when Prince Charles becomes king.
The new operation will be run by the prince’s spokesperson, but will be based at Buckingham Palace.
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“We are merging the press offices to better coordinate various strands of activity,” a palace statement said.
According to a report in ‘The Sunday Times’, the 65-year-old Prince of Wales will accompany the Queen on the beaches of Normandy this summer to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the joint trip on June 6 is the most high-profile example yet of Charles sharing official duties with his mother on the world stage.
The future king will stand in for the Queen at some of the day’s key engagements.
A French government adviser involved in planning the D-Day commemorations told the newspaper: “We have been told this will probably be the Queen’s last official foreign visit.”
Last year, the Prince had represented his mother at the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting in Sri Lanka.
After 261 official visits overseas in her 62-year reign, the Queen will be joining British veterans of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France this year.
She will be guest of honour at the international ceremony on Sword Beach, where she will be joined by President Francois Hollande of France, US President Barack Obama and more than a dozen other heads of state.
Most of the British veterans of the largest amphibious invasion in history are in their 90s and only 200 are expected to be in good enough health to attend.
The Queen turns 88 in April and, since suffering a bout of ill-health last spring, has steadily been shifting responsibility to younger generations of the royal family.
There are big changes for the Queen’s grandchildren too.
Prince William has been preparing to take over his father’s duties. He left his job as a Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot in September and is now studying agriculture to equip himself to oversee the Duchy of Cornwall, which he will inherit from Prince Charles.
His brother, Prince Harry, has swapped flying Apache helicopters for a desk job organising ceremonial events, including Trooping the Colour.
There is, however, unlikely to be any official announcement that the Queen is stepping back from frontline royal events, because this would raise difficult questions over protocol and succession.
It has been made clear that the Queen has no intention of following the example of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who abdicated at 75 in favour of her son, Prince Willem-Alexander last year.