Queen Elizabeth II attended the opening ceremony for a new train line in London on Tuesday, her third public appearance in less than a week after health problems had forced her to miss the opening of Parliament for the first time in nearly 60 years.
The queen, 96, ceded that duty to her son and heir, Prince Charles, as her age and health have increasingly kept her away from public events.
Her surprise appearance at Paddington Station on Tuesday was for an event celebrating the completion of the Elizabeth line, a long-delayed railway named in her honour. The train line had been under construction for 13 years and opens next week.
The queen met workers who had helped build the line, which runs west to east underneath central London, and some of the staff who will run and maintain it. Her youngest son, Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, accompanied her.
The queen was given an Oyster card, the transit pass used in London, and shown how to use it on a ticket machine. She wore a yellow coat and hat, and used a walking stick to walk around the station concourse. Last week, Buckingham Palace said she had decided against attending the Parliament ceremony because she was having trouble walking.
At the station, the queen was welcomed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson; London Mayor Sadiq Khan; and Andy Byford, commissioner of the city’s transit authority and the former leader of New York’s subway system.
“We’re all incredibly touched and moved and grateful to Her Majesty for coming to open the Elizabeth line today,” Johnson said at the event, according to the BBC. “It was fantastic to see her.”
The queen has made few public appearances this year, and until last week, she had not been seen in public since late March.
She had to cancel a series of events after testing positive for the coronavirus, and also skipped a Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey not long after her recovery. The queen last missed the state opening of Parliament in 1963 and 1959, when she was pregnant.
Days later, she was able to attend two events near her Windsor Castle home. On Friday, she made an appearance at the Royal Windsor horse show to watch her horse, Balmoral Leia, compete and win the Highland Class 64 event. The queen observed the show from a vehicle parked close to the parade ground and spoke to officials through an open window.
And Sunday, the queen attended an equestrian performance, A Gallop Through History, held as part of this year’s Platinum Jubilee, a celebration to mark her 70-year reign. Four days of festivities are planned for early June to celebrate the jubilee, with a balcony appearance on June 2 featuring the royal family as a symbolic centrepiece.
Several prominent members of the family will not appear on the balcony, including Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, and Prince Andrew. The official explanation for their absence is that both princes have stepped back from royal duties.
Harry and Meghan pulled back from royal obligations when they moved to Southern California in 2020. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021, they accused members of the family of callous and racist behaviour.
Andrew was stripped of his military titles in January after a federal judge in New York allowed a sexual abuse case about him to go ahead. He paid an undisclosed sum to settle the case, according to an attorney for Virginia Giuffre, who had filed the suit.
In late March, Andrew escorted his mother to a service at Westminster Abbey in London held in honour of her late husband, Prince Philip, who died in April 2021. It was the queen’s last appearance in public until the horse show Friday.
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