Speculation about Queen Elizabeth possibly abdicating has been rife since Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced her abdication on Jan. 28, 2013. A variety of new sources has asked the question — might Queen Elizabeth do the same? ABC News goes so far as to say the news must have made “interesting reading for Prince Charles,” while not understanding that the answer would always be a “no.”
As The Telegraph puts it, it is well-understood in royal circles that the Queen sees her role as one for life. It's not just that the Queen saw her father's scars from unexpectedly inheriting after his brother abdicated; according to Sally Bedell Smith's book Elizabeth the Queen, even if the monarch became infirm or got Alzheimer's, she would still remain a figurehead queen, with Prince Charles stepping in as a kind of regent (substitute monarch).
Barely a month goes by without a poll where people say they'd rather have Prince William as king, skipping Prince Charles entirely. Before Christmas, another round of “news” circulated, saying that the Queen had issued such a decree. It was not true. As far as the Queen of the United Kingdom is concerned, the only way Prince Charles will not inherit is if he, himself, declines the throne, or if he predeceases his mother.
Additionally, the law would have to change to let British monarchs abdicate at will. The Guardian quoted Professor of Government at Hull University, Lord Norton, as saying:
“Abdication remains a major contention, because it's completely alien to our system, and it's also alien to our law, which stipulates who will succeed.”
The ABC News report is inaccurate when it says that the news of Queen Beatrix's abdication is “unexpected.” According to Royal News Examiner Megan Knight, the Dutch monarchy is relatively young, and has set its own traditions, including the tradition of abdicating before death to pass on the monarchy to younger shoulders. This de facto rule is not followed in other royal circles--by the queen of 16 nations least of all.