Queen Elizabeth is sending Prince Charles to take her place at this year’s Commonwealth meeting later this year, making it the first time since 1973 she failed to attend.

The Queen is 87 years old and palace officials say the London to Colombo flight is a little too much for her.  Two months ago, she was admitted to hospital with gastroenteritis and was forced to cancel some public appearances.

Outside Buckingham Palace, observers see it as a sign Prince Charles is getting ready to assume the role of King.  The Duchess of Cornwall is expected to join Prince Charles at the summit in the Sri Lankan capital in November.

Queen Elizabeth attended the last Commonwealth summit in Australia in 2011 in her role as the symbolic head of the 54-member organization.

The palace is quick to point out that the switch has nothing to do with concerns about Sri Lanka’s human rights record, which is Canada threatening to boycott the meeting.