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Royal duty in the face of death

By CNN's Diana Muriel

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The death of the Queen Mother comes as her daughter's Golden Jubilee year gets under way.

The start of the celebrations to mark Queen Elizabeth II's 50 years on the throne have been marred by the death of her sister, Princess Margaret, in February, and now the loss of her mother.

Many royal observers expect the Queen to scale down her Jubilee programme without her mother or sister by her side.

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, is expected to shoulder greater responsibilities, both in this Jubilee year and beyond.

In-depth: Queen's Golden Jubilee 

The Queen has a full program in this Jubilee year and will tour much of the British Isles -- the high point coming in June with a four-day celebration of fireworks, concerts, royal processions and services of thanksgiving.

Many believe the role of the Queen -- and the way she is perceived by her subjects -- may well change, now that her mother is gone.

"The Queen although head of her family has always deferred to her mother," says royal historian Hugo Vickers.

"And in a way, the personality and character of the Queen have always been slightly eclipsed by the Queen Mother, who was such an outgoing person and didn't have the burdens and responsibilities the Queen has.

Although the Queen Mother had no constitutional position, she was a powerful figurehead, as well as a patron of more than 350 organisations -- including eight military regiments, the British Red Cross and the Women's Institute.

Those duties are now expected to be shouldered by other members of the Royal Family.

Queen Mother


The Queen's husband, Prince Philip, and their daughter, Princess Anne, are already among the hardest working of the royals.

Their youngest son, Prince Edward, together with his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, recently announced their retirement from their respective business occupations to help the Queen with her Jubilee program.

But how popular a substitute would they be for royal duties? Royal photographer Ian Lloyd says despite their backgrounds in media, they both have a lot to learn.

"I think given the fact that both Edward and Sophie are supposed to be media-savvy people, they do land themselves into some silly situations," says Lloyd.

"I think that the British public has reached the end of its tether, and I think that they've really got to play it carefully because any more disasters will just not be tolerated."

The Queen could be expected to look to her eldest son, Prince Charles, to do more. But the problem of his relationship with divorcee Camilla Parker-Bowles remains.

The death of the Queen Mother may provide a resolution of this situation. She was known to have disapproved of his remarriage to a divorcee.

It was a similar constitutional crisis that forced her beloved husband, King George VI, unwillingly onto the throne following the abdication of his brother, King Edward VII, who chose to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson in 1936.

Times -- and public tolerance -- have changed. And Prince Charles may now decide he can marry the woman he so clearly loves.

"The Queen Mother always urged Charles to put duty first," says royal watcher Robert Jobson.

"She feared that if he married a divorcee it would throw the monarchy into crisis again, and I think that is why he never did so during her lifetime."

The younger royals -- especially Prince William, who is finishing his education at St. Andrews University -- are unlikely to take on many more royal duties at this stage.

The Queen, with Prince Phillip, will be very much in the public eye in the future then, to stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace without either her mother or sister by her side.

Just a decade on from her "annus horribilis" of 1992, the Queen's Golden Jubilee year has begun with personal loss -- but must continue in public duty.




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