FILE - This Friday April, 21, 2006 file photo shows Britain's Queen Elizabeth II meeting the public during a walkabout to celebrate her 80th birthday in Windsor, England. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, Pool)
LONDON (AP) — Buckingham Palace says Queen Elizabeth II will skip the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Sri Lanka later this year — the first time she's missed the biennial gathering since 1971.
The queen has long been a major supporter of the 54-nation Commonwealth, and her decision to send Prince Charles to the November meeting is seen as a reflection of her age and of efforts to reduce her long-distance travel.
The 87-year-old monarch was briefly hospitalized for a stomach illness earlier this year, and she did not attend the Commonwealth Day Observance service at Westminster Abbey on March 11.. She has rarely taken time off for illness, having carried out more than 400 official engagements in 2012 — ranging from meetings with the prime minister to ceremonial gatherings.
One of her first public engagements after her illness was to sign a new charter setting out the Commonwealth's commitment to equal rights.
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