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Prince Charles is to become the global “face” of the Royal Family as he shoulders more of the Queen’s public duties, sources confirmed on Sunday.
The Prince of Wales - the longest heir apparent in British history - will take on his mother’s physically-demanding and high-profile engagements such as foreign tours and investitures.
It is the first acknowledgement that the Queen, who turns 88 in April, has made a conscious decision to allow her eldest son and other members of her family to take on more of her work.
But aides were on Sunday quick to stress that the monarch is far from retiring and will continue to focus instead on “behind the scenes” duties. According to one senior palace source, her diary for the next 12 months is busier than her Diamond Jubilee year of 2012.
They also dismissed claims that a planned trip to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy in June will be the sovereign’s final overseas engagement.
The Mail has learnt that there are in fact plans for a second foreign visit later this year, although it is likely to be a short-haul trip.
The movement of Charles to a more central role will allow the Queen to concentrate on her equally important “backroom” role as Head of State - including hosting foreign ambassadors and state visits, meetings with the Prime Minister and ploughing through the red boxes of official papers that need her attention every day.
It follows the most visible sign of change yet - the decision to merge the media relations teams for Buckingham Palace and Clarence House and base a single operation at the Queen’s London residence. It will be overseen by Charles’s current head of communications, former BBC PR chief Sally Osman - who will still be paid by the prince from his Duchy of Cornwall income. An aide said it was an attempt to simply “co-ordinate things better”.
Government officials, meanwhile, have been making their own contingency plans for a change of sovereign - with the help of the Queen’s private secretary Sir Christopher Geidt. This month he was awarded a second knighthood by the Government for a “new approach” to the preparation for a new monarch.
Sources have indicated that Sir Christopher was “put out” at the wording of the gong because it publicly acknowledges the Queen’s death - seen as rather tactless in royal circles. But they admit that he has been helping the Government “put its ducks in a row”.
“When it comes to the issue of transition, there are certain things that the Government needs to put in place,” said a source.” Charles has already represented his mother at the bi-annual Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Sri Lanka for the first time. And the Queen has also carried out a number of joint engagements with the Duchess of Cornwall, who she once memorably referred to as “that wicked woman”.
But a senior Palace aide told The Mail: “The Queen is not shutting up shop. She is still the Queen and is still incredibly busy. It’s the constant, daily work of being head of State that takes up so much of her time.” The source acknowledged, however, that there would be a continuing “change in pace” - and added about the forthcoming visit to Normandy this summer: “It is not her swansong.
“Her private office have openly confirmed she is pulling back on long haul travel, but don’t forget that the Duke of Edinburgh went to Canada last year at the age of 92.” - Daily Mail