The Energizer Bunnies of royalty: Elizabeth and Philip

Despite their age, the pair’s event calendars are busier than ever

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at Windsor Castle this past November. (Toby Melville/AP)

After a six-week Christmas break at the private royal estate of Sandringham in Norfolk, the Queen undertook her first public engagement of 2013 where she normally starts her year in front of the cameras: in nearby King’s Lynn. On Tuesday, Feb. 5 Queen Elizabeth II unveiled a new MRI unit at the hospital. The engagement, which comes a day before the 61st anniversary of her father’s death and her own accession to the throne, was a typically low key event. But that doesn’t hide the fact that this monarch is unstoppable. Anyone who thinks she’s going to quietly slip away into retirement like the abdicating Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, just has to look at the numbers.

Every New Year, retired insurance executive Tim O’Donovan publishes his tally of the royal family’s engagements for the previous year in the Times of London. He’s been doing unofficial statistical work since 1980 after wondering exactly how much work members of the house of Windsor actually did. The answer is a lot. Last year the Queen undertook 425 engagements in Britain, an increase of 15 per cent over her domestic and foreign duties of 2011. (In her Diamond Jubilee year, she undertook no foreign duties at all, leaving that to the rest of her family). That’s an amazing increase considering this is a woman about to celebrate her 87th birthday on April 21.

She isn’t alone. Her 91-year-old husband, Prince Philip, clocked up 323 domestic ceremonies and even two overseas ones. According to O’Donovan, himself an octogenarian, those two events were to present medals to troops in two of his regiments, the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers and the Queen’s Royal Hussars, which are based in Germany. Even though he was admitted to hospital on three separate occasions between Christmas 2011 and last autumn, his total number of engagements was reduced by just five. 

So was O’Donovan surprised when he looked at the numbers?  ”Amazed, but not really surprised.” After all, this is a family that has been increasing its duties over the years. While the four main working royals—Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne—did 1,010 engagements in Britain in 1979, their tally has climbed to 1,713 in 2012, an increase of 69 per cent. While the numbers have increased, so have their ages. Charles will be 65 this year while Anne, who had a busy year as head of the British Olympic Committee, will turn 63.

The couple who caught O’Donovan’s eye in 2012 were Prince Edward (up 15 per cent) and his wife, Sophie, (up 69 per cent) who undertook a long Diamond Jubilee tour of the Caribbean as well as Malta and Gibraltar plus lead cheerleader roles at the Olympics and Paralympics.

And those thinking 2013 might be quieter for Queen and Philip, think again. It’s the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. And yup, the year will be filled with even more celebrations.




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