LONDON (AP) — The queen's joints are creaky and her husband has recently battled serious illness, but the royal couple won't let aches and pains keep them away from a grand overseas commemoration: the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
Elizabeth II and Prince Philip have for the most part stopped traveling abroad — a reluctant concession to their advanced years — but next week they intend to be in Normandy for ceremonies to honor those who sacrificed their lives to liberate Europe from the Nazi grip.
The perils of World War II directly shaped the lives of Elizabeth, 88, and Philip, 92. The anniversary is so heartfelt that the royal couple is preparing to cross the English Channel once more, this time on a Eurostar train through the Channel Tunnel that Elizabeth helped inaugurate 20 years ago.
Historian Antony Beevor, a renowned chronicler of World War II, said Elizabeth and Philip want to show their solidarity with the dwindling number of living veterans, including those still strong enough to attend the events next week. They will bring younger royals as well, including Prince Charles, heir to the throne, and Prince William, second in line.
"I think it will mean a huge amount to the veterans," Beevor said. "To have the queen there makes all the difference. The veterans' loyalty is very deep and their admiration is very deep. The queen and Philip are both well aware that this is the last time a reasonable number of veterans will be able to attend. So it's very important to both of them."
The queen was a teenager during the war. As a princess she contributed by joining the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she served as a driver and mechanic. Philip was on active duty in the Royal Navy.
Beevor said many believe that this may be the final overseas trip for the queen, whose impressive stamina and mobility have lately been affected by joint pain.
The monarch, head of state since the sudden death in 1952 of her father George VI, has recently ceded more of her duties to Charles in what has been characterized as a "soft succession" or partial transition. Charles has stepped in for his mother at an increasing numbers of investitures and also represented her at the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting gathering in Sri Lanka.
Charles also filled in for the queen at the last minute at an event in May when royal planners became concerned about the number of steps she would have to ascend.