Queen calls PM from Windsor as Charles tests positive
THE Queen held her weekly audience with the Prime Minister by telephone as they adhered to Government rules on social distancing.
It followed the announcement that the Prince of Wales had tested positive for coronavirus but remained “in good health”.
The Prince, who is 71, discovered he had the virus after experiencing mild symptoms while staying at Birkhall, his home on the Balmoral Estate.
The Duchess of Cornwall, 72, has also been tested but has been given the all-clear. They are now self-isolating at the residence in Scotland.
Doctors say he has been contagious from March 13 at the earliest. Buckingham Palace said the Queen, 93, who last saw the Prince on March 12 and is staying at Windsor, was in good health.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said Boris Johnson wished the Prince “a speedy recovery”. Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, sent her best wishes but warned that the Highlands must not be seen as somewhere people can go to “outrun the virus”.
Only last year, Prince Charles was quietly marking the 50th anniversary of his investiture as the Prince of Wales when, using rhetoric reminiscent of a Shakespearean drama, he pledged to become the Queen’s “liegeman of life and limb and of earthly worship”.
As the longest-serving heir apparent in history, the 71-year-old has grown used to deputising for his mother – taking an increasingly prominent role in recent years as the 93-year-old sovereign approaches her centenary.
With the Duke of York now out of royal circulation, and the Duke of Sussex just days away from stepping down as a senior member of the Royal family, there has never been more pressure on the heir to the throne to support his mother after last year’s annus horribilis royal redux.
Which perhaps goes a long way to explaining why, as a future king, Prince Charles could take no chances when he started suffering from coronavirus symptoms at Highgrove at the weekend.
While it is tempting to jump to the conclusion that he flew to Scotland simply to jump the testing queue, in fact, he and the Duchess of Cornwall had long planned to be in Birkhall this week. They traditionally spend every Easter (which coincides with their wedding anniversary on April 9) and summer at the tartan-clad bolt-hole nestled in a picturesque glen on the Queen’s Balmoral estate.
It wasn’t just that the Prince needed to know whether there was a chance he could have infected his mother when they last met following an investiture at Buckingham Palace on March 12 – but the countless others he had come into contact with as the Royal family wound up its public duties earlier this month.
His engagements included a Wateraid conference with Prince Albert of Monaco, who later tested positive for Covid-19, although as Clarence House admitted: “It is not possible to ascertain from whom the Prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks.”
While some may question why these two princes were able to be tested while less regal folk suffering similar symptoms have been kept in the dark over a diagnosis, the grim truth remains that in a constitutional monarchy, Prince Charles is the next in line to the British throne.
Indeed, he and the Duke of Cambridge are currently the only two of the Queen’s four “Counsellors of State” who could stand in for her should she become ill or incapacitated (the other two being the recently exiled Princes Andrew and Harry).
So the Prince of Wales arguably has more reason than most to know for definite whether he needs to be out of royal circulation – if only to instruct his eldest son and heir to take up the reins (if not the reign). Not that Her Majesty, who Buckingham Palace insists remains in robust health, has any intention of delegating her duties at this stage.
It is perhaps telling that the great-grandmother’s first question to staff as she began her own virtual self-isolation in Windsor Castle last week was: “How will I receive my red boxes?” a reference to the red leather briefcase-like containers that carry all her official papers.
Having spent every day for the past 68 years tending to the documents of state (with the exception of Christmas
‘If she suddenly disappeared from public life people would have asked: Why is she the exception?’
Day and her birthday) the sovereign has not been prepared to let a little thing like a global pandemic disrupt circadian commitments that have been in place since 1952.
Not that she was being blasé about the crisis – on the contrary, thanks to the contents of those scarlet cases, she is better briefed than most on the latest developments as well as being in regular contact with the Prime Minister, with whom she held a “virtual” audience last night.
It was simply a reflection of her “keep calm and carry on” mentality.
Yet, following the familial diagnosis, questions are understandably being asked about whether more should have been done to protect the Royal family – and their staff – from a disease that has so far killed more than 20,000 people globally. Some are questioning why the Queen, who turns 94 on April 21, was still carrying out investitures on March 4 (with gloves), and holding audiences at Buckingham Palace the following day (without).
A Palace employee has already tested positive for the virus and as one well-placed insider admitted: “It’s inconceivable that there won’t be more cases. People at the Palace were always going to come into contact with this even though we followed all the correct procedures at every stage. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.”
As has been evidenced by the somewhat negative reaction to Charles being tested in Aberdeenshire on Monday, The Daily Telegraph understands that royal aides were wary of making special arrangements for the Queen ahead of the Government advice for fear of criticism that she was being treated differently to her subjects.
“If she suddenly disappeared from public life people would have asked: Why is she the exception?” added the source.
Understood to be in regular contact with royal doctors, courtiers are now taking no chances with the Queen’s health and it is expected that she will remain in Windsor with the Duke of Edinburgh, 98, and a small retinue of staff including Paul Whybrew, her Page of the Backstairs, and Angela Kelly, her personal adviser, for the foreseeable future.
Yet, for the first time in her historic reign, she will be without her “liegeman of life and limb” as he spends the next fortnight in selfisolation in the Highlands.
The Queen, left, speaks to Boris Johnson from Windsor for her weekly audience
The Queen was carrying out investitures – with gloves – on March 4, as the virus spread