LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II will miss the Commonwealth heads of government meeting inSri Lankain November, sending her son Prince Charles in her place, the palace announced on Tuesday.

It will be the first time the 87-year-old monarch has missed such a meeting since it was first held in 1971, and comes as she hands over some of her duties to younger members of the royal family. The queen was forced to cancel several public engagements earlier this year after being admitted to hospital suffering from gastroenteritis, her first hospital admission in 10 years. “The queen will be represented at this year’s Commonwealth heads of government meeting by the Prince of Wales,”BuckinghamPalacesaid in a short statement. A palace source said the decision was unrelated to the controversy over the human rights record of the host of this year’s meeting,Sri Lanka.

Instead, it is part of a gradual move to cut down the ageing monarch’s foreign trips, which last year saw some of the younger royals represent her on overseas tours to mark her Diamond Jubilee.

The queen attended the last Commonwealth meeting inPerthinAustraliain October 2011.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the decision had likely been taken “very, very carefully, because I know the queen cares enormously for the Commonwealth”.

“We should respect that decision particularly because the queen has been so tireless in her service to the Commonwealth,” he told Sky News television.

The queen became head of the Commonwealth when she acceded to the British throne in 1952, and now presides over an organisation of 54 members representing two billion people.

Prince Charles accompanied his mother to the heads of government meetings inEdinburghin 1997 andKampalain 2007, and also stood in for the queen at the Commonwealth Games inNew Delhiin 2010.

TheSri Lankameeting in November has been marred in controversy, withCanadathreatening to stay away unlessColomboinvestigates suspected war crimes committed by its troops in 2009.

President Mahinda Rajapakse’s regime faces allegations — which it denies — of indiscriminately killing civilians during the final assault on Tamil Tiger rebels that ended a four-decade civil war.