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9 Reasons Queen Elizabeth II Will Never Step Down From the Throne

As Queen Elizabeth approaches her mid-90s, some people are asking if she would ever abdicate the throne.

Queen Elizabeth IIShutterstock

Would Queen Elizabeth ever step down from the throne?

It seems a fair question to ask, after all, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has served as monarch of the United Kingdom for more than 70 years, longer than any other monarch in the history of Britain. Plus, she’s in her mid-90s, has had some recent health issues, and lost the love of her life, Prince Philip, in 2021. Wouldn’t it make sense for her to step aside to make room for the next person on the royal family tree, her eldest child, Prince Charles? While retirement might seem like a logical next step for an average person, Queen Elizabeth is anything but. Here are the reasons why it’s likely the Queen will never give up the throne.

Queen Elizabeth Ii And The Duke Of Edinburgh On Their Coronation DayPrint Collector/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth is dedicated to the people of Great Britain

Even before she started her reign, young Queen Elizabeth made a promise on her 21st birthday in 1947 to the people of the United Kingdom. “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,” she stated in a radio address from Cape Town, South Africa.

In the 75 ensuing years, Elizabeth has never wavered in her devotion to the British people. In fact, she has renewed her lifelong commitment on numerous occasions, most recently during her address on the 70th anniversary of her accession day in February of this year. “My life will always be devoted to your service,” she said, recalling her 1947 pledge.

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“Queen” is not a job title but a state of being

Being queen is not merely a job for Queen Elizabeth II, it is who she is. Like other monarchs, she wasn’t elected, hired, or appointed queen (or king, as the case may be). Because the British monarchy is a “constitutional monarchy,” the order of succession to the throne is dictated by law; it is strictly hereditary and has long been associated with an “absolute right to rule” for the duration of the monarch’s life. The fact that the British monarch is also the highest-ranking member of the Church of England lends credence to the notion of the monarch’s “divine appointment,” which is another way of expressing the concept of the absolute right to rule.

Queen Elizabeth IIRupert Hartley/REX/Shutterstock

Abdication is a drastic step

Abdication isn’t merely retiring or taking a step back from duties, it means renouncing the throne. When King Edward VIII, Queen Elizabeth’s uncle, abdicated in 1936, he set off a constitutional crisis that threatened the very existence of the monarchy. Perhaps no one understood that better than Elizabeth who had a front-row seat to the drama; after Edward abdicated, Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI became king and Elizabeth his heir. It’s likely that this upheaval helped to inspire Elizabeth’s well-known loyalty and devotion to the U.K.

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No British monarch has ever abdicated due to advanced age

While it might seem reasonable to outsiders that Queen Elizabeth might step down from the throne, or abdicate, because she is getting older and possibly physically frailer, it’s highly unlikely that the Queen would take such a drastic step. Why? If she were to abdicate, it could be interpreted that being queen is a job to be done, as opposed to the state of her existence to be embraced.

In fact, some close to the Queen have said that Elizabeth could “never abdicate” by virtue of age or otherwise. The Queen’s former lady-in-waiting and longtime friend, Lady Pamela Hicks, shared in February of this year that the queen was “shocked” when Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands abdicated in favor of her daughter in 1948. As Hicks explained, Elizabeth knew even then that she could never abdicate, because doing so is inconsistent with the religious doctrine of the Church of England. There is no reason to think that Queen Elizabeth has ever lost sight of her official role of “defender of the faith.”

Queen Elizabeth II Attends The Traditional Maundy ServicePool/Tim Graham Picture Library/Getty Images

The British people like her

Though her popularity took a nosedive during the 1990s in the Princess Diana era, Queen Elizabeth’s popularity is currently at an all-time high: 76 percent, according to a YouGov poll of Britain. The poll was taken in late 2021 after Prince Harry stepped down from his royal duties and sat down with his wife Meghan Markle for a potentially damaging televised interview with Oprah Winfrey, but before she publicly rebuked Prince Andrew for his involvement with the Virginia Giuffre lawsuit.

Members Of The Royal Family Attend Events To Mark The Centenary Of The RAFMax Mumby/Getty Images

The Queen’s Accession Day speech gives the impression she is staying put until the end

During her February 2022 Accession Day speech, in addition to renewing her devotion to Britain, the Queen made public her wish that when Prince Charles ascends the throne, his wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, “will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service.” If the Queen were entertaining plans to abdicate in favor of Prince Charles, it would seem unnecessary, if not out of place, for her to specify how she would like Camilla to be styled as consort. After all, if the Queen has plans to step down, she could let her wishes for Charles’ reign be known at such time. Further, for anyone who might still be hoping the Queen would ever abdicate in favor of Prince William, the fact is that her expression of her wishes as to Camilla’s styling as consort would appear to negate that possibility altogether.

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Prince Charles is not exactly young, himself

Even if the queen were to abdicate due to her advanced age, the fact is that her heir, Prince Charles, is also of retirement age; born in 1948, the Duke of Cornwall is already well into his 70s. In the opinion of some palace insiders, the public perceives Prince Charles as too old to take on the role of king. Whether that is true or fair to say, the bottom line is that the Queen stepping down in favor of the Prince of Wales would have the effect of merely replacing one elderly monarch with another.

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The royal duties are already being delegated to the younger generation

Ever since the late Prince Philip retired from his duties in 2017, the Queen has been accompanied at many public events by Prince Charles. The Queen has lately been delegating more and more of her duties to her children and grandchildren and more public events are attended by Prince Charles, Prince William, and Kate Middleton, or some combination of the three. The Queen does not need to take the extreme action of abdicating if she’s able to take the smaller steps of sharing her duties with the younger royals.

Queen Elizabeth IIShutterstock

Plans are already underway for the Queen to reign until her death

For several years now, the British government has been planning and even rehearsing for all that will happen when the Queen dies. And such plans presume that the Queen’s death will be the death of the monarch and head of state, as opposed to a former queen. It certainly doesn’t sound like there are any plans afoot for the Queen not to be queen at the time of her passing. In fact, it seems that quite the opposite is true.

Queen Elizabeth IITim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

What if the Queen becomes unable to rule?

In the event that Queen Elizabeth cannot actually act as queen, such as in the case of severe illness, a regency with Prince Charles as Prince Regent would be formed. In order for that to happen, according to the Constitution Unit of the University College London’s (UCL) School of Public Policy, medical evidence is required and three out of the following people have to agree to declare her incapacitated: the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lord Chief Justice, and the Master of the Rolls.

But this isn’t the most probable scenario. It’s more likely that “the Queen will retain her title and certain royal duties, while her son, the Prince of Wales, assumes a greater number of her public engagements and increased decision-making power behind the scenes,” says Carolyn Harris, PhD, historian and author of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting. “The Prince of Wales already undertakes overseas travel to the Commonwealth on the Queen’s behalf, and in the coming years, he will assume more of the Queen’s duties in the United Kingdom.”

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Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.