Coronavirus UK: Queen issues message to nation amid pandemic
The Queen today urged Britain to come together amid the coronavirus crisis and assured the country that the Royal Family is ready to ‘play its part’ in beating the deadly infection.
The 93-year-old monarch was seen leaving Buckingham Palace with her faithful corgi-dachshund mix Candy on her lap as she headed to Windsor Castle for her Easter break a week earlier than planned.
The Queen was joined at Windsor by her husband Prince Philip, 98, who travelled by helicopter from his home of Wood Farm at Sandringham in Norfolk, amid an anticipated lockdown of London.
In today’s message, she praised medical workers, scientists and the emergency and public services who are fighting the pandemic, and stressed everyone has a ‘vitally important part to play as individuals’ – today and in the coming months.
‘Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe. I am certain we are up to that challenge,’ she said. ‘You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part.’
On another day of dramatic developments in the fight against the fast-spreading virus as latest figures revealed that a further 29 people who tested positive had died in England, taking the UK total to 137:
Earlier today royal experts suggested Prince William could step in to cover the Queen’s commitments in a crisis plan – due to second-in-line Prince Charles also being over 70 and potentially facing four months in self-isolation.
Her Majesty glanced out of the window next to the corgi-dachshund mix, who is called Candy, as she sat in the back of her official car for the 50-minute journey to Berkshire.
Reports say the Duke of Edinburgh joined her a week early to match her revised schedule, as she waits out the crisis away from London, where tighter restrictions are expected within as it is the centre of the outbreak.
The Queen attended her last engagement in London yesterday, a private audience with two senior officers from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Yesterday, she greeted Captain Angus Essenhigh, the new Commanding Officer of the Royal Navy warship HMS Queen Elizabeth, and his predecessor Commodore Steven Moorhouse.
There were no handshakes, just bows from the captain and the commodore, as they met and chatted with the monarch in the private audience room of the Queen’s London home.
ITV’s royal editor Chris Ship took to Twitter this afternoon explaining Philip had travelled by helicopter from Wood Farm in Sandringham to Windsor to be with the Queen for Easter.
Boris Johnson warns the Government will take further action in London if people do not follow social distancing advice
Boris Johnson has said the Government stood ready to take further action in London if people do not follow the Government’s advice on social distancing, although he ruled out closing down public transport.
‘If we feel that it isn’t working and we need to bring forward tougher measure, nothing is ruled out,’ he said.
‘It is vital that people follow that advice. There is huge evidence that they are (social distancing) in the takings of the retail sector, the hospitality sector, TfL (Transport of London) in inner London down about 50 per cent, in outer London 60 per cent, but some evidence that in parts of the capital it is very patchy and some areas where people aren’t following it in quite the way we need them to do,’ he said.
He acknowledged there had been some ‘misunderstanding’ over the Government’s plans.
‘There is no prospect of us wanting to stop public transport in London or stop the Tube or the buses,’ he said.
‘We are going to want people to avoid gatherings where they transmit the disease. If it becomes necessary to do more to ensure that, we will certainly do so.’
‘He had always planned to be with her and was moved to Windsor a week earlier to match the Queen’s revised schedule,’ he wrote. ‘She arrived there this afternoon.’
The Duke of Edinburgh was last pictured in January being driven onto the Royal Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, where the Queen spends her winter break, for a shoot.
Prince Philip remained in Sandringham while recuperating from a four-day stay in hospital in London over the festive period, where he was treated for a pre-existing medical condition.
He had been admitted to King Edward VII Hospital for a few days as a precautionary measure, and for observation, after a period of poor health which saw him battling a ‘flu-like’ illness for weeks and suffering a ‘bad fall’.
Earlier today royal experts told MailOnline that Prince William could soon take a more senior role in the Royal Family during the coronavirus pandemic, should the Queen and Prince Charles have to go into isolation.
This week Health Secretary Matt Hancock said people over the age of 70 will be told to self-isolate, even if they do not have symptoms, in a bid to stem the spread of the disease and protect the most vulnerable in society.
Given the Prince of Wales, 71, and Her Majesty, 93, are within this age group, as third-in-line to the throne the Duke of Cambridge may be required to provide a ‘physical presence’ of the monarchy.
Nigel Cawthorne, author of Call Me Diana: Princess Diana on Herself, told FEMAIL: ‘It is entirely sensible for Prince William to act as placeholder for the Queen. There has to be a physical presence to the monarchy, not just a virtual one.
‘He’s third-in-line to the throne and in robust health like his brother, and COVID-19 is unlikely to be any serious threat for him or his wife or children. He will do a great job.’
Royal commentator Robert Jobson also told FEMAIL it is the ‘natural thing to happen’ for the Duke of Cambridge to act as placeholder for his grandmother.
London braced for potential ‘lockdown’
The nine-million inhabitants of the capital are set for tighter restrictions on their movements – with signs the government will urge people to stay at home unless it is absolutely essential.
Contingency plans are believed to be in place for police to guard shops and helicopters to airdrop food, although sources insisted that is not happening at this stage in the unfolding crisis.
Camp beds and food stocks were seen being moved into Downing Street today, in more evidence that Boris Johnson and his aides are bunkering down for the situation to escalate.
The PM fuelled speculation about the fate of the capital last night by vowing he will not hesitate to go ‘further and faster’ to control the spread of the deadly virus.
He said ‘ruthless’ enforcement of so-called social distancing measures – such as working from home and avoiding social gatherings in pubs, cinemas and restaurants – was needed.
Some 953 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in London – more than a third of the UK total of 2,626.
But Downing Street insisted there is ‘zero’ prospect’ of trains in and out of the capital being axed, and there are ‘no plans’ to shut down the Tube system, although services have been pared back.
The PM’s spokesman also insisted it is ‘not true’ that only one person from each household will be allowed to leave their homes.
Health minister Nadine Dorries has vented her fury at images of still-busy bars and cafes in the capital, tweeting: ‘This is not social distancing, it is irresponsible behaviour and the price to pay for such selfishness will be severe for us all.’
Tube services in the capital are already being downgraded, with 40 stations shutting. Mayor Sadiq Khan has urged the public to travel only if they ‘really, really have to’. In a desperate plea to residents, he said: ‘I want to see more Londoners following the expert advice.’
Four more deaths have today been confirmed in the UK, taking the total number of fatalities on British soil to 108. One was in Northern Ireland and three in Scotland, while England has yet to give its daily update.
And Grant Harrold, who was a royal butler between 2004 and 2011, explained: ‘It is possible that if the Queen and the Prince of Wales are in isolation, then Prince William as second-in-line would take a more active role during this period.’
Mr Cawthorne added that, should the Duchess of Cambridge fall pregnant during the pandemic, the Palace would have to go ‘on bent knee to Prince Harry to ask him to act as placeholder’.
‘I am sure he would come back and be delighted to help out, too, and do anything to protect his father and grandmother,’ he said.
However, that could be difficult given Prince Harry is currently isolating in Canada with his wife Meghan Markle and their son Archie, who turns one in May.
Mr Cawthorne acknowledged that it is unlikely there are any social gatherings left on the court calendar where Prince William would need to step in, as the Queen has scaled back her events due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
However, he added, there are ‘classified informal meetings on matters of state, and the monarchy is an enormous machine with many employees staying in touch with people, cities and charities across Britain and the world’.
Nigel continued: ‘Some of these will be routed through secure communications. But this creates a risk of sorts and some of them will just require face-to-face meetings where Prince William can decide what is so essential that it needs to be managed up to the Queen or to his father.
‘The organisation supporting the monarchy can’t just stop. It would create an enormous backlog. Nor can a courtier stand in for the monarch and make all the decisions that are required to be made.
‘Also, the government will always want the head of state or a representative to be available when dealing with visiting foreign or diplomatic dignitaries. It always helps as the history of the British Royal Family is unparalleled.’
It is also possible that Princess Beatrice, who is ninth-in-line to the throne, may be appointed a Counsellor of State during these uncertain times, while Prince Harry – who is officially no longer a working royal from March 31 – may also step in to provide assistance, according to experts.
If the Queen is temporarily unable to perform her constitutional duties, normally there are five Counsellors of State available to fill in for her – Prince Philip, 98, Prince Charles, Prince William, 37, Prince Harry, 35, and Prince Andrew, 60.
Counsellors of State are made up of the consort of The Queen and the first four people in the line of succession who meet the qualifications – one of which is having reached the age of 21, which rules out Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis and Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.
However, the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus may cause the Regency Act 1937 to come under immense pressure to create a sixth Counsellor, reports Royal Central.
At any one time, two or more Counsellors of State must be presiding at any one time – which could be problematic when the self-isolation rules regarding the over 70s comes into force.
Beatrice’s royal wedding likely to be limited to two guests if it goes ahead
Princess Beatrice will only be able to have two guests at her wedding if the coronavirus crisis continues.
The Church of England has said the number of people attending church weddings during the outbreak should be limited to the legal minimum of five – the priest, the bride and groom and two witnesses.
The Queen’s granddaughter and her fiance Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi have already cancelled their reception, which was due to take place in the gardens of Buckingham Palace.
Beatrice and millionaire property tycoon Edo said on Wednesday that they still plan to wed on May 29, but were looking at whether a private marriage with a small group of family and friends would be feasible.
But the new Church of England rules means they will only be able have two family members or friends if the pandemic continues.
This means Beatrice could have her parents but not her sister Princess Eugenie as well.
Couples are being advised to ‘stream’ their ceremony to absent friends and family.
Beatrice, daughter of the Duke of York and Sarah, Duchess of York, is set to walk down the aisle in the Chapel Royal of St James’s Palace in London.
The princess, 31, was overjoyed after becoming engaged on a weekend trip to Italy last September, and the couple said they could not wait to be married.
Her forthcoming nuptials have already been overshadowed by the scandal that has engulfed her father Andrew.
The duke retired from public royal duties in November after his disastrous Newsnight interview about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Andrew has strenuously denied claims from Virginia Giuffre that he slept with her when she was 17 after she was trafficked by Epstein.
The duke is facing calls to talk to the FBI and US prosecutors, but has previously been accused of having ‘completely shut the door’ on any co-operation.
As the granddaughter of a monarch, Beatrice would have been expected to wed in front of 800 guests in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, just like her sister Princess Eugenie, whose ceremony was televised and was followed by a carriage ride through the town.
But, amid the controversy over her father, the princess opted for the more intimate, low-key option of the Chapel Royal and was due to invite 150 guests.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Beatrice would have wanted her grandparents the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to be with her on her wedding day.
The Queen was to host the private reception in the grounds of her London residence.
But the Government has called on all people in the UK, particularly the over-70s, to avoid all non-essential contact and travel as part of unprecedented peacetime measures aimed at controlling the spread of Covid-19.
The Queen, 93, and the 98-year-old Duke of Edinburgh are at Windsor Castle, where they are socially distancing themselves.
Mr Mapelli Mozzi has dual British and Italian citizenship. Italy – the worst-hit European country – is in lockdown.
The Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles would both have to be quarantined, while Prince Harry and Prince Andrew are no longer working royals – though that is not a requirement for the role of Counsellor of State.
The Queen’s garden parties at Buckingham Palace have also been called off and the Palace of Holyroodhouse garden party in Edinburgh, which takes place in July, is under review.
The monarch will be based at her favourite home in Windsor with a reduced household and will be following appropriate advice, a source said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called on all people in the UK, particularly the over 70s, to avoid all non-essential contact and travel as part of unprecedented peacetime measures aimed at trying to control the spread of COVID-19.
Elizabeth II, the nation’s longest reigning monarch, is due to celebrate her 94th birthday next month, and the risk of more severe symptoms from the coronavirus is greater for the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
Investitures will be rearranged and the annual Maundy Service at St George’s Chapel has been cancelled, the palace said. Future audiences will be reviewed on an ongoing basis, the palace said.
She is not the only royal affected by the Government’s new advice. Heir to the throne the Prince of Wales is 71 and the Duchess of Cornwall is 72.
Other working royals include the Queen’s cousins the Duke of Gloucester, 75, the Duke of Kent, 84, and Princess Alexandra, 83.
The palace said further announcements would be made on Trooping the Colour, the 75th anniversary of VE Day and a state visit by the Emperor and Empress of Japan, in consultation with the Government.
Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masakois are due to stay with the Queen at Windsor Castle in May and be feted with a ceremonial welcome and a grand state banquet, but the high-profile occasion is expected to be postponed.
The palace said in a statement: ‘As a sensible precaution and for practical reasons in the current circumstances, a number of changes are being made to the Queen’s diary.
‘Her Majesty will move to Windsor Castle for the Easter period on Thursday 19 March, one week earlier than planned. It is likely the Queen will stay there beyond the Easter period.
‘In consultation with the Medical Household and Government, a number of public events with large numbers of people due to have been attended by the Queen, and other members of the royal family, in the coming months will be cancelled or postponed.’
The Easter period is expected to be a quiet one for the monarch, as is usual, a source said.
Each year, the Queen takes up official residence in Windsor for a month over Easter between March and April, known as Easter Court.
The Queen also usually hosts a Dine and Sleep event during her stay when guests are given a bed for the night in the castle, but this will undoubtedly not take place.
Famous guests in the past have included director Tim Burton, actress Helena Bonham Carter, Bond star Daniel Craig and actress Rachel Weisz.
On Friday, Her Majesty’s upcoming visits to Cheshire and Camden were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this month the Queen is reported to have vowed not to let the outbreak stop her from performing her duties and to set an example by ‘keeping calm and carrying on’ until there is ‘compelling advice to the contrary’.
London has THREE TIMES more coronavirus cases than any other region in the UK
London has three times more cases of the killer coronavirus than any other region in the UK, according to official statistics.
More than 900 cases have already been confirmed in the capital, with the boroughs of Southwark, Westminster and Lambeth the worst affected.
In comparison, fewer than 300 people have been struck down in the second worst hit region, the South East.
London makes up more than a third of the UK’s infection toll, which has already seen 2,626 cases confirmed by health officials.
It comes as Boris Johnson today said the capital – home to almost 9million people – will not face being locked down this week, after fears had been growing that travel around and in or out of the city would be stopped.
Despite London being the epicentre of the UK’s escalating crisis, the worst affected single authority in England is Hampshire.
On Saturday, a building in Windsor Great Park was closed for a deep clean after three people showed symptoms similar to those of COVID-19. The Savill Building was closed over the weekend for the clean to take place.
A statement on the park’s website said: ‘As a precautionary measure we have taken the decision to close The Savill Building over the weekend to conduct a deep clean of the premises, after becoming aware of three individuals, who are showing symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, having been on site.
‘Whilst these are not confirmed cases we feel that this is a prudent step that prioritises the health and wellbeing of our employees and visitors.
‘We continue to monitor the situation and Government’s public health guidance closely. The rest of Windsor Great Park remains open as usual.’
The Queen was due to visit the Bentley Motors Factory in Crewe, and the Jodrell Bank Observatory and Square Kilometre Array Global Headquarters in Macclesfield on March 19. She was also due to visit Camden on March 26, but full details of the trip had not yet been released.
Charles and Camilla had been due to start their spring tour to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and Jordan on March 17. It would have marked the first time a royal has visited Cyprus since the Queen in 1993.
A spokesman for the Queen said: ‘As a sensible precaution and for practical reasons in the current circumstances, changes are being made to The Queen’s diary commitments in the coming weeks.
‘In consultation with the Medical Household and Government, Her Majesty’s forthcoming visits to Cheshire and Camden will be rescheduled.
‘Audiences will continue as usual. Other events will be reviewed on an ongoing basis in line with the appropriate advice.’