Britain's Queen, 90, delays traditional Christmas trip due to illness

Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace in London, Nov 3, 2016.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace in London, Nov 3, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Queen Elizabeth II has cancelled her departure for a Christmas trip to her country estate because she and her husband have "heavy colds", a Buckingham Palace spokesman said on Wednesday (Dec 21).

"The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have heavy colds and so have decided not to travel to Sandringham today," the spokesman said, referring to the estate in eastern England.

The 90-year-old monarch and her 95-year-old husband Prince Philip had been expected to take a train from London as part of a yearly tradition.

Police and staff were at the station in London waiting for the Queen but photographers were suddenly told the trip would not be going ahead, British media reported.

The couple hosted their annual Christmas lunch with other royal family members at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, joined by heir to the throne Prince Charles and second in line Prince William.

The Queen and Philip, who has had several health problems in recent years including an ailment in May that forced him to cancel a trip to a World War I anniversary, have been married since 1947.

She once described him as "my strength and stay all these years".

The Queen was treated for the symptoms of gastroenteritis in 2013 and stayed overnight in a private hospital, cancelling an official trip to Rome.

In June last year, Buckingham Palace took the unusual step of confirming that she had gone for a routine medical check-up in London following social media speculation about her health.

On Tuesday, the Queen's office said she would stand down as patron of 25 bodies including the Wimbledon tennis championships and the Rugby Football Union, handing over her duties to other royals.

She has already slightly reduced her engagements in the past year, according to estimates in British media, from 393 in 2014 to 341 in 2015.

"The Queen will no longer have a formal connection to these organisations. If there is a royal engagement, then the invitation will go to other members of the royal family," a palace spokesman said.

Queen Elizabeth became the world's longest-reigning monarch in October this year following the death of Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej.

In September last year, she surpassed the reign of her great great grandmother Victoria, who was on the throne from 1837 until 1901.