Queen calls PM from Wind­sor as Charles tests pos­i­tive

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Han­nah Fur­ness and Gor­don Rayner

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

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