World First Look

Why Queen Elizabeth is stepping down as patron of 25 organizations

The queen will resign from her patronage of 25 national organizations at the end of this year, according to Buckingham Palace. 

Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip bid farewell to Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos and his wife Maria Clemencia de Santos following their state visit, at Buckingham Palace in London on Nov. 3, 2016.
Stefan Wermuth/Reuters/File
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Come January, Queen Elizabeth is handing off 25 of her patronages to other members of the Royal Family.

The queen is stepping down from her positions at national organizations including Save the Children, the NSPCC, and the Royal Geographical Society at the end of the year, Buckingham Palace announced this week. 

The announcement has been taken as an acknowledgment of the queen's advancing age in her 90th birthday year. In stepping down from some of her patronages, she is following the example of the Duke of Edinburgh, who also resigned from a number of patronages around the time that he turned 90 years old in 2011. As retirement is not an option for members of the Royal Family, Queen Elizabeth has been gradually lightening her load in recent years by reducing the number of public engagements she undertakes per year.  

A popular ruler, the queen also holds the record as the longest-serving monarch in British history, as Annika Fredrikson reported for The Christian Science Monitor in September 2015:

Over the course of her rule, Queen Elizabeth has traveled to 116 countries, and she was the first reigning British sovereign to visit Saudi Arabia or China. She assented to more than 3,500 Acts of Parliament, including a change to the law of succession that will allow first-born daughters to take precedence over later-born sons. She is heavily involved in charity work, serving as patron of over 600 charities and organizations....

Parliament controls the vast majority of Britain's political power, but the monarch maintains three rights, noted Victorian economist and writer Walter Bagehot: "the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn."

Her understated authority has contributed to her record popularity, with 69 percent in favor of the queen, according to a 2012 Guardian/ICM poll.

While she will continue to serve as patron to hundreds of other charities and organizations, family members including Prince Charles, Prince Harry, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will each take over some of the 25 patronages that the queen is stepping down from.

Prince Charles will take on the role of patron of the Holocaust Day Memorial Trust and the Royal Institution, while Prince Harry, Prince William, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge will replace the queen as patrons of the Rugby Football Union and the Rugby Football League, the Amateur Swimming Association, and the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) in Wimbledon, the BBC reports.

The announcement that the queen would step down from some of these organizations was lamented by some Brits mourning what they see as the beginning of the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign. As Alison Phillips wrote for Mirror in response to the news: 

It feels today as though we have never been quite so divided. Between remainers and leavers, between urban elite and angry masses, between ­hardship of struggling workers in insecure work and arrogance of the growing super rich, between ­religious extremists and political opportunists...

[T]he Queen is the essence of Britishness. She embodies those finest bits of our national character that should never be allowed to go out of fashion. At a time when so much interaction on social media – and any media – is ugly and aggressive, she stands for civility. In an age of selfishness, she reminds us that good things come from ­sacrifice. At a time when the world seems to be constantly changing, she shows the importance of stability and standing firm on what matters. And above all, she reminds us that to live together well, we need people to serve without faltering, flinching or rolling over and staying in bed.