Queen forced to call off virtual audiences due to her Covid diagnosis

The Queen, 95, is forced to call off virtual audiences for the second time this week because of ‘cold-like’ Covid symptoms – but palace says she will carry on with ‘light duties’

  • Queen postponed two more virtual audiences today as she continues to suffer from the effects of Covid-19
  • 95-year-old monarch also cancelled virtual engagements on Tuesday because she wasn’t feeling well enough
  • Head of state however did hold her telephone audience with Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday evening 
  • Queen has run of high-profile engagements coming up such as Diplomatic Reception at Windsor on March 2
  • Due to attend Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on March 14 then Philip’s memorial on March 29 

The Queen postponed two more virtual audiences today as she continues to suffer from the effects of coronavirus at Windsor Castle and concerns mount for the 95-year-old monarch’s health.

The head of state, who tested positive on Sunday, also cancelled virtual engagements on Tuesday because she was not feeling well enough – but did hold her telephone audience with Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday.

She was due to hold two virtual audiences today, but these are no longer taking place. Fears for the nation’s longest reigning sovereign have been heightened given her age, frailer appearance and recent hospital stay.

The Queen has a run of high-profile engagements coming up – including in just a week’s time when she is set to host the Diplomatic Reception on March 2, meeting hundreds of members of the Diplomatic Corps at Windsor.

The monarch is also due to attend the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London on March 14, and then the memorial service for her late husband Prince Philip, also at the Abbey, a fortnight later on March 29.

The Queen is said to have been suffering from ‘mild cold-like symptoms’, although her audience with the Prime Minister yesterday suggested the world’s current oldest and longest-reigning monarch is not seriously unwell.

Buckingham Palace has said it would not give a running commentary on the health of Elizabeth II, who celebrated her 70th anniversary of becoming Queen earlier this month. No other engagements are planned this week. 

Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle on February 16, which was four days before her positive Covid-19 test was announced

Yesterday evening, the Queen would have had much to discuss with Mr Johnson during their weekly telephone conversation – including how the UK Government are dealing with the escalating crisis in Ukraine.

The Prime Minister is also embroiled in the partygate saga, with the Metropolitan Police investigating a dozen events, including as many as six which the PM reportedly attended.

Queen could strip Harry of key role: ‘Counsellors of State’ who can stand in for monarch should live in UK, MPs are told 

Prince Harry should not be eligible to stand in for the Queen as a Counsellor of State because he no longer resides in the country, a new parliamentary briefing paper reveals.

But Prince Andrew could still stand in for his mother should she become incapacitated, despite having to step down from public duties and relinquish his HRH title because of the Epstein scandal.

This week the House of Commons Library quietly published for the first time guidance on what arrangements can be put in place if a monarch is unable to perform their royal functions. 

It follows intense public debate about the roles of Dukes of Sussex and York as ‘stand-ins’ for the sovereign now they have both quit as working royals, particularly in light of the 95-year-old Queen’s recent ill-health. 

The parliamentary briefing paper will increase pressure on Buckingham Palace to take legal steps to resolve the matter once and for all. There have been calls to appoint the next two senior royals in line to the throne – Prince Edward and Princess Anne – in their place. 

A Government source said: ‘There’s been a lot of noise about Harry and Andrew and their roles as Counsellors of State and it was felt important MPs had all the facts. It has nothing to do with Her Majesty being ill.’

The Queen’s advanced age, Covid diagnosis, frailer appearance and recent health scare mean her medical team will be keeping a close eye on her progress, but being well enough to speak to Mr Johnson will be taken as an encouraging sign.

It is understood the Queen previously also had a separate planned in-person audience in the diary for yesterday but this was cancelled on Monday in keeping with Covid isolation guidelines.

The nation’s longest reigning monarch, who will have been triple vaccinated, recently spent more than three months resting, on doctors’ orders.

In the autumn, she pulled out of attending the Cop26 climate change summit, the Festival of Remembrance and then the Remembrance Sunday Cenotaph service due to a sprained back. 

She also missed the Church of England’s General Synod.

The Queen now regularly uses a walking stick and has been pictured looking frailer recently. She remarked during a Windsor Castle audience last week: ‘Well, as you can see, I can’t move.’

Mr Johnson is the 14th prime minister of the Queen’s long reign.

The pair have held their weekly audiences – which follow Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons – by telephone for much of the pandemic, with the monarch usually seated in her Oak Room sitting room taking the call on an old-fashioned phone.

But Dominic Cummings – the former chief aide to No 10 – claimed Mr Johnson wanted to visit the Queen in person early during the pandemic despite Downing Street staff already falling ill with virus.

Mr Cummings alleged he had to convince Mr Johnson not to visit the monarch by warning about the potentially grave consequences.

Ultimately Mr Johnson and the Queen switched to holding phone discussions on March 18, 2020 as she prepared to socially distance at Windsor, ahead of the first lockdown.

Their first in-person meeting during the pandemic was not until 15 months later on June 23, 2021. 

In a 1992 documentary filmed to mark her 40th year on the throne, the Queen gave her view on the importance of her meetings with her prime ministers. 

A cameraman stands in front of Windsor Castle on Monday, a day after it was announced that the Queen had tested positive

Armed police stand guard in front of Windsor Castle on Monday where the Queen is still keeping up with official papers

‘They unburden themselves or tell me what is going on or if they have any problems, and sometimes I can help in some way as well,’ she said.

‘They know I can be impartial and it is rather nice to feel one is a sponge. Occasionally one can put one’s point of view and perhaps they have not seen it from that angle.’

As head of state, the Queen is politically neutral and acts on the advice of her Government in political matters, but her knowledge of politics is immense.

Throughout her reign, she has received weekly briefings from the prime minister of the day, and dozens of government documents pass across her desk every week for formal approval. 

Nearly two years ago when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Britain, the Queen and her husband Prince Philip moved to Windsor in March 2020.

The couple, who were married for 73 years, self-isolated with a reduced number of household staff. Philip, 99, died in April 2021, and his funeral was held under strict coronavirus restrictions with the Queen forced to sit alone at St George’s Chapel at Windsor.

Elizabeth II returned to official duties after his death and as restrictions were lifted, but she was forced to slow down on medical advice in October last year.

The palace was forced to confirm that she had an overnight stay in hospital after going in for unspecified tests – and since then her appearances have become rarer.

She held a public engagement at her Sandringham residence in Norfolk on February 5 for members of the local community and volunteer groups, on the eve of the anniversary of her accession to the throne in 1952.

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