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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II to miss Commonwealth meeting for first time since 1971

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Dec. 18, 2012: In this file photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II looks up and waves to members of staff of The Foreign and Commonwealth Office as she ends an official visit which is part of her Jubilee celebrations in London. She has no formal political role, but Queen Elizabeth II has been named Britain's most powerful woman by a BBC radio program. (AP/File)

Buckingham Palace says Queen Elizabeth II will skip the Commonwealth heads of government meeting -- the first time she's missed the biennial session 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. 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.