And … she's back! The smile! The pink lippie! The basically superglued on pearls! Her Majesty the Queen, after the mysterious mobility issues, the wheelchair claims, the eleventh hour cancellations, the cryptic statements, and the heart rumpus is BACK!
On Friday (UK time) she made an unexpected appearance at the Royal Windsor Horse Show putting on a positively jubilant display, laughing, chatting and looking far more spry than she has in years.
Then, early Monday morning, the 96-year-old arrived at the closing night of a Gallop Through History, an equine extravaganza staged by the Show and co-starring Helen Mirren and Tom Cruise, positively beaming.
Wearing a pale blue embroidered gown and grey wrap, she received a standing ovation from the crowd as she made her way to her seat. Again, she looked positively thrilled to be out of her draughty castle and having a night out.
Picture editors and photo agencies the world over must be positively befuddled right now: The world has not seen such a preponderance of photos of the Queen looking so joyful and chirpy in years and years.
Because all of this comes days after things looked so dire it would not have been a surprise if Prince Charles had cleared his schedule to devote a morning to practising wearing the Imperial State Crown.
Last week, it was announced that for the first time in nearly 60 years, the Queen would not be attending the State Opening of Parliament, for health reasons, officially deputising Charles to read her speech while Prince William, assisted by walking behind his father. (That royal game, tough no?)
Both men looked so sombre that royal watchers clutched their pearls (it's the uniform you see) with the overall impression being that things must be truly very bad indeed back at Windsor Castle.
And yet fast forward a few days from the State Opening and there the Queen was looking as right as rain and pleased as punch, positively beaming as she chatted for quite a long time to retired racehorse trainer, Henrietta Knight and later joked with Colin Brooks, chairman of the show's committee.
(It is believed that unlike the State Opening, she has not missed a single Royal Windsor Horse Show in 79 years.)
So are we looking at a regal Lazarus? Have the boffins at Oxford University come up with some new miracle drug to put some pep in Her Majesty's step? Or was something much more sneaky and cunning going on?
There is not a skerrick of a doubt that King Charles III will be a less-than-popular sovereign when he finally accedes to the throne. Consider it a given that the vast commemorative collection of coronation china pumped out by the Royal Collection Trust at some point in the future will sit gathering dust on shelves, right there with the series of pieces they produced to mark Princess Eugenie's 2018 wedding to tequila ambassador Jack Brooksbank (truly).
Polling done last week found that only 36 per cent of Brits think that Charles will make a good king, in stark contrast to the 80 per cent who think the Queen has done a bang-up job.
Given all of this, just what is a worried monarch – and mother – to do?
Enter "the masterplan".
This weekend, The Times published a pretty extraordinary report raising the possibility the Queen might have called in sick for the State Opening of parliament to give her regal rookie of a son a go and to try with the goal of getting the public used to the idea of Charles in charge.
The piece, which ran with the headline "The Queen used to resist succession – now she has a masterplan," reported that "Prince Charles's substitute appearance at the Queen's Speech was part of a careful dance choreographed by the monarch herself."
"The events on Tuesday were planned by the Queen, Charles and their aides to 'soften the edges of transition' before the full-length Charles feature currently in production," The Times' royal editor Roya Nikkhah wrote.
"Make no mistake, this was the trailer," a well-placed royal source told Nikkhah of Charles' turn at the State Opening.
"The Prince was dressed in a very regal way, but not to the point of appropriating the sovereign. Once you adjust your eyes to that, it won't be so different when we see him wearing the crown. Technically, it wasn't even necessary to have him read the speech."
If this is the case, colour me impressed. Who knew that Her Majesty had such proto-Machiavellian tendencies?
Lending credence to this planned theory is that on the two previous occasions when the Queen missed the State Opening (during her pregnancies with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward) the lord chancellor had read her speeches.
Given how tradition-bound the whole royal show is, it would not have been a surprise in the least if she had insisted on hewing to form on this front. However, according to The Times, "a source close to the monarch confirms she was adamant that Charles, not Dominic Raab, the lord chancellor, should give the speech."
"Having her heir read it was a very conscious decision by her. It plays to that point about cementing in people's minds that his role is coming, be in no doubt," the same well-placed royal source said. "Blink, and you couldn't tell the difference between Tuesday and when he first reads the speech as king."
If the crafty Queen did in fact plan to have Charles sub in for her, even though she potentially could have physically been up to it, then kudos. It was a clever and necessary move.
When Her Majesty does, hopefully years from now, pop off to join the great race meeting in the sky, the psychic jolt for Britons and those of us in the Commonwealth is going to be seismic. For 64 million people in the UK, she is the only sovereign they have ever known. (There are around 3.2 million people over the age of 80 who might have some memory of her father King George VI's reign.) More than any other monarch in British history, she represents certainty and continuity, an immutable fixture in the political landscape.
To not only lose that but for her spot to then be filled by her homoeopathy-loving hedgerow-enthusiast of a tampon-fancying son will make the lurch from one reign to the next even more acutely jarring and painful.
Then there are the broader cultural shifts at play. The monarchy might have been able to coast along on the continued support and respect for the Top Lady (as Diana, Princess of Wales called her mother-in-law) but that will evaporate the second her death is announced.
For proof, look no further than 12-year-old Johnny from Coventry, who this week told the Times: "All the royals do is get born. It's just not very fair."
Likewise, Seán, 16, from Warwick who told the paper he thinks the royal family has "overstayed their welcome".
Polling done earlier this month found that 60 per cent of Brits are still in favour of keeping the institution of the monarchy, compared to more than 75 per cent a decade ago. (Currently, 27 per cent want the whole thing abolished, an increase of 2 per cent.)
While it's hardly time to start drawing up plans to decommission Buckingham Palace or turn Windsor Castle into the world's most expensive Airbnb, all signs clearly point to very choppy waters ahead for the house of Windsor.
Against this backdrop, any moves the Queen, and Charles, can make right now to try and smooth the way for him would make perfect sense.
Because while Her Majesty's sprightly and jubilant turn at the Windsor Horse Show might have been a joy to watch, her advanced years are clearly catching up with her. A walking stick is now a permanent part of her ensemble when just two years ago she was able to ride her Fell ponies. When she arrived at the Royal Windsor Horse Show last week, she used a small lift to reach the platform where her seat was. There has also been speculation that she might be suffering from some sort of heart condition (unconfirmed of course).
The royal family is unquestionably looking down the barrel of what will be a tectonic jolt when the sad day inevitably comes and she passes away. What comes next and if they can ride out this once-in-a-century tumult is by no means guaranteed, especially when a generation of Johnnys and Seáns unfortunately hit adulthood right as Charles takes over.
Happily, there is one thing that has not dimmed in the slightest for Her Majesty, despite her age: Her dry sense of humour.
During Monday's Horse Show pageant, TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh took to the stage and told the crowd, "For 70 years, there's been one constant heartbeat of this nation and that heart belongs to Her Majesty The Queen" which set off rapturous applause and cheering. Immediately, the cameras cut to the woman in question, who first looked noncommittal before shrugging and nodding, offering the most droll two seconds of a regal performance in living memory. Social media nearly immediately latched on to the moment.
Even at 96 years old, she is, and will always be, the face that launched a thousand gifs.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.