The Queen stoically returned to royal duties yesterday, four days after the death of her husband the Duke of Edinburgh.
The monarch, 94, hosted a retirement ceremony for the former Lord Chamberlain Earl Peel on Tuesday.
It comes after her husband of 73-years, Prince Philip, passed away aged 99 on Friday at Windsor Castle.
As touching tributes flooded in from across the nation for the duke, including flowers left at residences such as Windsor and Buckingham Palace, the family announced a two-week period of royal mourning.
But, in a move that typifies the Queen’s deep sense of duty, she returned early to bid farewell to Earl Peel – a key royal aide who is retiring after 14 years of service.
Earl Peel was the Lord Chamberlain, which is the most senior officer role in the royal household. He had been overseeing arrangements for the duke’s funeral – known as Operation Forth Bridge.
It came as a former aide to Her Majesty said she would never abdicate, because ‘her sense of duty and honour and public service is so deep in her’. The insider told People Magazine: ‘Her family will step up and be by her side, but she will carry on. She understands that she has a job to do, and [Philip] would have wanted her to crack on. She did do so when he retired from public life.’
It has also been claimed that the Queen’s inner strength and stoicism means she may sit alone during her husband’s funeral this weekend.
Royal expert Angela Levin told TalkRadio: ‘I can’t believe the Queen, who has the stiffest of upper lips, would want anyone sitting next to her.
‘There are members of the family who have been very close to her during the pandemic – one of them would’ve been invited along. I think Sophie, who is married to Edward, is very very close to the Queen. She’s been there so often I can’t see she wouldn’t be allowed [to sit next to her] if the Queen would so want it.
‘She’s already back at work yesterday. She doesn’t like to look as if she’s falling apart. I bet she’s discussed this with Prince Philip and I bet he’d go along with that. Sometimes it’s easier to be by yourself then with someone close to you who loves you and then you let all the emotion out’.
The news of the Queen’s return to work came as:
- It was revealed that the Queen may have to wear a mask at Prince Philip’s funeral due to the current Covid restrictions;
- The Queen may also have to sit on her own at the funeral due to rules which mean those attending services must remain seperated from other households;
- Prince Philip’s private secretary, Brigadier Archie Miller-Bakewell, who is part of HMS Bubble, may accompany her, according to reports;
- The Queen also faced the issue of how Prince Andrew should dress at the funeral after he demanded to be allowed to go as an Admiral;
- As tributes mounted up outside royal residences, the Queen’s Twitter account paid a touching tribute to Prince Philip which celebrated his interactions with people ‘from all walks of life’;
- Reports also suggest that the Queen is now likely to spend much of her time in Windsor following the Duke’s death and will instead use Buckingham Palace as ‘more of an office’
Prince Andrew, The Duke of York, recently said his mother is bearing up stoically and the family have been rallying round to support her.
And Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, has pledged to uphold his grandfather’s wishes and continue to support the Queen and ‘get on with the job’.
It was announced at the weekend the monarchy and their households would observe two weeks of royal mourning, with members of the family ‘continuing to undertake engagements appropriate to the circumstances,’ a royal official said.
The Princess Royal, Prince Anne, took part in her first official event since the death of her father.
She joined, via video-link, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s Spring Conference in her role as the organisation’s patron.
The Earl Peel, who has now left his role as the royal family’s top aide, had overseen arrangements for the duke’s funeral before handing responsibility to his successor, former MI5 spy chief Baron Parker, just over a week before Philip died peacefully at Windsor Castle.
The Lord Chamberlain’s Office, led by the Queen’s Comptroller Lieutenant Colonel Michael Vernon, is tasked with the practical side of the day.
But in overall charge is Andrew Parker, Baron Parker of Minsmere, who took up his new role on April 1, following the Earl Peel’s retirement after more than 14 years in the post.
The Lord Chamberlain oversees all senior appointments in the household and is the channel of communication between the sovereign and the House of Lords.
The position also ensures co-ordination between Buckingham Palace and Clarence House.
During a ceremony held at Windsor Castle, the Queen accepted her former royal aide’s wand and insignia of office.
The official engagement was recorded in the Court Circular – a daily list of the events attended by the Queen and her family.
It said: ‘The Earl Peel had an audience of The Queen today, delivered up his Wand and Insignia of Office as Lord Chamberlain and the Badge of Chancellor of the Royal Victorian Order and took leave upon relinquishing his appointment as Lord Chamberlain, when Her Majesty invested him with the Royal Victorian Chain.’
The Queen recently conferred a prestigious honour on the Earl Peel, making him a Permanent Lord in Waiting.
The Armed Forces are stepping up preparations for the duke’s funeral which will feature servicemen and women from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and RAF – alongside top military brass.
Soldiers from the Corps of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) are reportedly working to prepare the special Land Rover – that the duke helped design – which will carry his coffin on Saturday.
Lieutenant General Paul Jaques, who served with REME, said about the duke, his unit’s former colonel-in-chief: ‘He was engaged with us and used to visit us probably once or twice every single year since 1969.
‘And he had an enormous passion for all things engineering. In his own words ‘If it wasn’t invented by God, it was invented by an engineer’.
It comes amid reports that the Queen may have to sit apart from family members at her husband’s funeral – due to strict Covid rules.
Current guidelines mean anyone attending a funeral must stay at least two meters apart from those outside their household, except when in a support bubble.
However the Queen is not eligible to be in a support bubble, because she technically does not live on her own – and is supported by a team of royal aides dubbed ‘HMS Bubble’.
As other members of the Royal Family are living in other royal residences, it means the Queen will likely have to sit at least two metres away from relatives at the funeral, according to the Telegraph.
Royal sources confirmed to the paper that the Queen would be alone at the funeral service, unless a member of the Windsor bubble joins her.
Meanwhile, the Queen will likely have to wear a mask at the funeral, while royals could be banned from singing hymns due to Covid restrictions, reports the Sun.
Updated national guidance, issued by the Government, said communal singing should not go ahead at funerals to prevent the spread of Covid.
Choirs are still allowed, but members must be kept to as few as possible and should remain socially distanced.
A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said tonight: ‘We have made it very clear that the service will be Covid compliant.’
More details of the funeral, set to take place at George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on Saturday, are to be announced on Thursday.
Meanwhile, reports in the Daily Express today suggest that the Queen will spend more time at Windsor following the death of Prince Philip.
The Queen has reportedly told royal sources that she now feels ‘most comfortable’ living within the walls of the Berkshire fortress – known to be her favourite royal residence.
Even prior to Prince Philip’s death the Queen had been spending more and more time at Windsor – and has been sheltering there for much of the pandemic.
It is believed Buckingham Palace will be used in more of an office role going forward, the Express adds.
Ahead of Saturday’s funeral, Prince Harry flew into London’s Heathrow Airport without his heavily-pregnant wife Meghan Markle ahead of Prince Philip’s funeral on his first visit to Britain since quitting royal duties and the couple’s bombshell Oprah interview.
The Duke of Sussex was reportedly seen leaving his £11million California mansion on Saturday night in a black Cadillac Escalade to board an early-hours flight from LA, and disembarking a BA plane in chinos, a jacket and black face mask at the west London airport around 10 hours later at 1.15pm GMT on Sunday.
Harry was met by security off the plane and put into a black Range Rover, before he was reportedly driven to Kensington Palace.
The Sun has claimed he is quarantining at the Christopher Wren-designed Nottingham Cottage, where Harry proposed to Meghan Markle in 2017. It is just a few yards from the apartment where his brother William lives with his family.
The Sunday Times has claimed that he will stay at Frogmore Cottage in the grounds of Windsor Castle, so he can be close to his grandmother.
After Megxit, Frogmore was handed to Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, who had their first child in February, but they are understood to split their time between the cottage and Kensington Palace.
Harry can leave quarantine after five days rather than 10 if he provides a negative test under the Government’s Test to Release scheme.
However, he will be allowed to attend Philip’s funeral regardless, as official guidelines state those coming in from abroad can leave isolation ‘on compassionate grounds’.
It comes as family members paid touching tributes to the duke.
The Royal Family’s Twitter page shared a picture with the Queen and Prince Philip along with a moving quote from the monarch about her husband from a speech she made celebrating their golden wedding anniversary in 1997.
In the speech, looking back at their then 50 year marriage, she said: ‘He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.’
Grandchildren, Prince Harry and Prince William also paid tribute in statements released thirty minutes apart.
Prince William praised his grandfather’s lifetime of service to ‘Queen, country and Commonwealth’ before Harry declared: ‘He was my grandpa: master of the barbecue, legend of banter, and cheeky right ’til the end’.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, James Robinson and Martin Robison