Her cousin Princess Alexandra has not done a single royal engagement for eight months. It means the working Royal Family has effectively shrunk from 15 to 11 since November 2019, when Prince Andrew “temporarily” stepped away from official duties amid the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. He was followed by the departure of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in March last year.
Britain’s monarchy is following in the footsteps of its European counterparts in slimming down, although the Windsors seem to have done it by accident rather than as a deliberate modernising measure so far.
Alexandra, 84, has suffered bouts of ill-health and also sustained injuries including a broken arm that have kept her off work for spells in the past few years. But although Buckingham Palace declined to comment, royal sources insisted yesterday that the Princess is currently well and has not retired without telling anyone.
They could not, however, explain why she has failed to carry out a single official duty in such a long period.
Her last official engagement listed in the Court Circular was on July 30, 2020 when she marked the 150th anniversary of the British Red Cross by telephoning one of its longest serving volunteers.
The Princess, who lives in Thatched House Lodge, a Crown Estate property in Richmond Park in southwest London that she and her late husband leased at a market rate in 1963, remains patron or president of more than 100 organisations, according to the Buckingham Palace website, reflecting a wide range of interests from the arts to health care.
She has recorded video messages for a small number of charities during lockdown, according to friends. But recorded messages, unlike live video and telephone calls, have not been counted as official engagements during the pandemic, which has been a difficult time for many charities.
Alexandra, the daughter of King George V’s fourth son, Prince George, Duke of Kent, and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, was sixth in line to the throne when she was born in 1936. Hers was the last royal birth at which the Home Secretary was present under rules to verify the legality of those in the line of succession dating back to the warming pan scandal of 1688 when Protestant opponents of the Catholic monarch James II alleged his wife Queen Mary had used an imposter to cover up a stillbirth.
More than 200 million people around the world watched television coverage of her wedding to Angus Ogilvy at Westminster Abbey in 1963 and from the 1950s the glamorous princess typically undertook around 120 engagements a year.
But she has cut back her workload in recent years. Last year she only undertook 12 official engagements. She did 58 in 2019, 74 in 2018, and 70 in 2017, according to royal expert Patricia Treble, who analysed the Court Circular for the Daily Express.
The Queen uses money from the £23 million annual profits of the monarch’s hereditary estate, the Duchy of Lancaster, to pay for the princess’s office costs along with those of several other working members of the family. Alexandra was paid £225,000 a year when the old system of Parliamentary Annuities was abolished for everyone except Prince Philip in 2012 and since then the palace has not stipulated the sums given to each member of the family. But even before the annuities were abolished the Queen refunded the money to Parliament for everyone except Philip from 1993.