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he Queen has always been known for her robust health and has seldom been unwell. In the past 13 years she has been admitted to hospital just three times, twice for knee surgery and in 2013 for gastroenteritis. So, when she was taken ill with a ‘heavy cold’ shortly before Christmas and delayed her departure to Sandringham everyone was talking about it and worrying.

   When the monarch then missed the Christmas Day and New Year’s Day services at St Mary Magdalene church it became headline news. Prince Philip also suffered from a virus but soldiered on. The Queen was advised by her doctor to stay indoors and rest, which is exactly what she did, but a nasty cough refused to go away. Her Majesty’s staff say her constant refrain is ‘if I stop I flop’, but on this occasion stopping is what she had to do.

   Illness also plagued other royal houses of Europe over the festive season. Queen Paola, mother of the King of the Belgians, fell and fractured a vertebra; Queen Sonja of Norway also missed church on Christmas Day due to a cold; and Queen Silvia of Sweden was admitted to hospital on 23 December, her 73rd birthday, suffering from dizziness. Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, 96, was in hospital with bronchitis.

   In the annual survey of royal engagements for 2016 it was revealed that the Prince of Wales is now the busiest member of the family, having overtaken his sister the Princess Royal with 530 engagements to her 509. The Duke of Cambridge managed 188 engagements in between his job as a pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, while the Duchess of Cambridge came in with 140.

   Prince Philip, aged 95, undertook more public engagements than any of his grandchildren and notched up an amazing 219. Prince Harry travelled overseas more than any other member of his family and completed 152 official engagements. The Earl of Wessex did well with his 118 engagements abroad, but Sophie surpassed her husband for sheer effort when she cycled 445 miles from Edinburgh to London for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Diamond Challenge.

   This year is expected to be more testing for the younger members of the royal family and it has been mooted that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will relocate to London to be able to do more official duties. If so, Prince George will have to go to nursery school somewhere local to Kensington Palace.

   At the age of 3 years and 3 months Prince William was sent to Mrs Mynors’ kindergarten in Notting Hill, where he stayed until he was 4 and a half. Prince George is 3 years 7 months, and although he has been attending school since January of last year he is still very young for anything more sophisticated.

   The long-awaited refurbishment of Buckingham Palace is due to start in April, but the Queen has assured Royal Household officials that it will be business as usual as far as she is concerned.

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