Smiling Queen Elizabeth meets Swiss president after 96th birthday

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London (AFP) – Queen Elizabeth II looked on healthy form Thursday as she met face-to-face with Switzerland’s president, in the build-up to UK-wide celebrations for her Platinum Jubilee in early June.

The monarch returned to Windsor Castle after a week-long break on her Sandringham estate in Norfolk, eastern England, where she marked her 96th birthday in private on April 21.

The audience with President Ignazio Cassis was her first official engagement since then, and she held it in person rather than by video.

Smiling broadly for photographs with Cassis and his wife Paola, the queen stood without her walking stick, after complaining of mobility problems in recent months.

Cassis met separately with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the leaders agreed a joint statement to work towards a UK-Swiss trade deal after Britain’s Brexit departure from the European Union.

Johnson’s government prorogued parliament on Thursday ahead of local elections on May 5.

A new session of parliament will convene on May 10 — normally a grand state occasion when the queen presents her government’s forthcoming legislative agenda.

Aides have said the queen’s attendance at the state opening of parliament will only be confirmed nearer the time, after she was forced to miss a traditional Easter service.

Elizabeth has missed only two state openings during her long reign, in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and then Prince Edward.

Andrew, the Duke of York, has been casting a shadow for his mother in what is meant to be a festive period leading up to a four-day weekend of jubilee events marking her 70th year on the throne.

On Wednesday, Andrew was stripped of his status as a freeman of the northern English city of York because of his associations with convicted sex offenders Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.

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