Will the Queen abdicate - and what has she said about it?

·5 min read
CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 14: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Queen Elizabeth II attends the opening ceremony of the sixth session of the Senedd at The Senedd on October 14, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
The Queen could abdicate, but it's unlikely that she will, according to experts. (Getty)

At the age of 95 and approaching her Platinum Jubilee in February, the Queen has made history as the longest-reigning British monarch.

And, after nearly 70 years ruling the country, it would be perhaps unsurprising if she wanted to ease her workload.

But while the Queen can technically abdicate — something only previously done by Edward VIII and setting in motion the chain of events that led to her becoming monarch in the first place — it is unlikely that she will.

Not only has the Queen said on several occasions that she views her role as a job for life, but experts and onlookers are convinced that she won't step down, remaining on the throne until she dies.

While some speculated that she might abdicate following the death of Prince Philip — her husband of 73 years died last April — many remained firm in the view that it's not a move she will make.

Queen Elizabeth II (left) and the Prince of Wales (right) during the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh, at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Picture date: Saturday April 17, 2021.
Some speculated that the Queen would abdicate following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. (Getty)

Has a British monarch abdicated before?

In other royal families, such as the Netherlands, it's not unheard of for a monarch to abdicate due to old age.

But it's virtually unheard of in British history — apart from in one notorious example.

In 1936 King Edward VIII famously abdicated so he could marry US divorcee Wallis Simpson.

The couple had embarked on an affair while Simpson was still married to her second husband, Ernest, and neither the government not the church would accept her as the potential Queen.

Edward pushed for what is known as a 'morganatic marriage' in which his wife would have no claim on his rights, but it still wouldn't persuade the powers-that-be, so he abdicated.

The move left his brother, the Duke of York — the Queen's father — to take over, becoming King George VI and setting in motion the path of succession that would lead Elizabeth to become Queen.

Newspaper seller adjusting his headline posters during the Edward VIII abdication crisis of 1937 (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
The abdication of Edward VIII in 1937 sparked a constitutional crisis. (Getty)

What do Royal experts say about the Queen abdicating?

The history of King Edward VIII's abdication is one of the main reasons many experts believe that the Queen will never abdicate.

Others include the fact the monarch vowed to dedicate her life to the Crown, as well as the vow she has made to God in her commitment to the role.

Despite speculation that the Queen could step down following her husband's death, royal commentators remained steadfast in the view that she will continue until her death.

At the time, royal historian Hugo Vickers said: "I can assure you the Queen will not abdicate.

"There is every indication the Queen is in extremely good health and with luck she will continue to be our queen for as long as possible."

He told the Guardian: "One main reason why the Queen will absolutely not abdicate is unlike other European monarchs, she is an anointed Queen... And if you are an anointed queen you do not abdicate."

Similarly, royal expert Robert Jobson told Express.co.uk the Queen "will never abdicate", saying: "The Queen will be the queen until the day she dies in my opinion. Of course she will."

Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Elizabeth - Coronation The Duke of Edinburgh kneels in homage to his wife the new queen (Photo by NCJ Archive/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)
The Queen vowed to reign for her whole life when she was crowned at the age of 21. (Getty)

What has the Queen said about abdicating?

A strong indication of the Queen's commitment to her role until her dying day lies in the vow she gave when she was crowned at the age of 21.

During that vow, she said: "I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and to the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong."

That dedication is referenced in excerpts from the book The Queen by Matthew Dennison, including a comment made to her cousin Margaret Rhodes when she said she would not contemplate abdication "unless I get Alzheimer’s or have a stroke".

The book also referred to how, on the retirement of George Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury in 2003, she told him: "That’s something I can’t do. I’m going to carry on to the end".

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From a desire not to see a repeat of the issues caused by her own uncle's abdication, to her vow to the church, as well as a lifelong belief in seeing things through, there appear to be several reasons as to why the Queen would not want to go down such a path.

She is reported by some commentators to have said: "It is a job for life", indicating her commitment to the role, while her Christmas broadcast in 2008 also seemed to echo a similar sentiment.

In it, she said: "Over the years those who have seemed to me to be the most happy, contented and fulfilled have always been the people who have lived the most outgoing and unselfish lives."

How is abdicating viewed by the Palace?

When Edward VIII abdicated, it plunged the country into a constitutional crisis — something nobody would be keen to see repeated, either in the Palace or in government.

And senior Buckingham Palace aides are reported to be as firm in their believe that abdication is unlikely, reportedly answering: "Life means life" when asked about the possibility of the Queen stepping down.

Is there any way the Queen could step down without abdicating?

In order to step down without abdicating, the Queen could appoint a regent.

In her case, it would be Prince Charles, who would exercise all the duties of the monarch, but the Queen would still retain her title, status and position.

She would be Queen in name only and would effectively retire, without going as far as abdicating.

Equally, if she became unable to fulfil her constitutional duties, a regent could be appointed for her, as happened with George III.

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