When Queen Elizabeth II turned 21, she made a promise to her family’s constituents.
“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong,” the then-Princess vowed in a message recorded while she celebrated her birthday in Cape Town, South Africa.
Many have taken that to mean the British royal plans to serve as ruling monarch until her death.
But according to royal sources, there is a date coming up in three years time that may have changed the Queen’s mind: her 95th birthday.
Royal commentator Robert Jobson has previously said in columns in the Mail on Sunday and The Evening Standard that he has been told by high-ranking palace officials that, if she is still alive, the Queen wishes to pass the crown to her son Prince Charles at 95, in 2021.
“I understand the Queen has given the matter considerable thought and believes that, if she is still alive at 95, she will seriously consider passing the reign to Charles,” a senior former member of the royal household told the Mail on Sunday.
“Her Majesty is mindful of her age and wants to make sure when the time comes, the transition of the Crown is seamless.”
So how does the royal family go about this transition? Well, the Queen would simply need to invoke the Regency Act. In this case, Prince Charles would become Prince Regent, acting as King in every sense but his title. This would allow the Queen to pass on her duties without renouncing the throne, or abdicating, which something that, by all indications, she is opposed to.
The Act was updated in 1937 to allow reigning monarchs to pass the throne onto a regent, given they meet a number of requirements, such as being over the age of 21, and considered to be British. Before this, an Act was created each time it was required.
The handover of power could happen “in the event of the incapacity of the Sovereign”, most likely due to illness.
Jobson reported he was told by palace officials that preparations for the transition are already underway.
“Palace staff responsible for communications have been ordered to be ‘up to speed’ on the 1937 Regency Act,” he said.
Prince Charles, meanwhile, has been taking on more and more responsibilities from his mother in recent years.
As well as representing her at a greater number of events, Charles was also named in April as the next head of the Commonwealth after his mother.
Taking care of that formality could be taken as another sign the Queen, who is, by all accounts in good health, is preparing for the end of her reign.