The Queen has been pictured horse-riding in the grounds of Windsor Castle – her first public appearance since the coronavirus lockdown began.
Windsor is said to be the Queen’s favourite royal residence and she has been photographed over the weekend riding one of her ponies, a 14-year-old Fell Pony called Balmoral Fern.
The 94-year-old, who has been a passionate horse lover and breeder of thoroughbred racehorses throughout her reign, had not been pictured riding since she began isolating at Windsor Castle ten weeks ago despite reports she has been taking daily rides.
Wearing a colourful headscarf and smartly dressed in a tweed jacket, jodhpurs, white gloves and boots, this weekend the head of state ventured out to enjoy the sunny weather that has been a contrast to the sombre mood of the lockdown.
She will have been heartened, no doubt, to hear that horse racing returns today for the first time since March 17.
Her Majesty was accompanied by her head groom Terry Pendry, with the pair practising social distancing at all times.
The last public picture of the Queen was taken as she was driven away from Buckingham Palace to her Windsor Castle home on March 19.
One of the Queen’s corgis – she has two named Candy and Vulcan – could be seen next to her as they both looked out of the car window.
The Queen carried out official duties the day before her planned departure, but held her weekly audience with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the phone rather than face-to-face as usual.
The Queen has made two televised addresses to the nation during the lockdown – the first a speech to reassure the country that coronavirus would be overcome and those in isolation ‘will meet again’, and another on a similar theme to mark VE Day.
In lockdown Queen Elizabeth is said to have continued to take daily horse rides, one of her lifelong pleasures.
Reportedly slipping out of a side door at Windsor castle every morning in a headscarf, jodhpurs and riding boots to take a short drive to her beloved fell pony at Home Park.
Aware of the risk posed to her health by covid-19 Her Majesty is said to make the short drive to the stables unaccompanied – no police, no servants and no family that could expose her to the coronavirus.
And head groom Mr Pendry ensures her ponies are ready and that he keeps two metres from his boss.
All protective disinfectant measures are taken, particularly for the horse’s saddle and bridle.
The monarch’s ride of choice is a black pony called Carltonlima Emma, named after the stud near Leeds where she was bred, and the routine gives the queen a sense of both freedom and normality.
Many thought she would have to give up riding – confined to barracks by the pandemic.
But a devoted team of 22 staff are working to provide a protective shield around Elizabeth and Prince Philip, which Windsor Castle colleagues are calling ‘HMS Bubble’.
The 22 royal staff have sacrificed their home lives to stay isolated at Windsor Castle and serve Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip for the duration of the lockdown.
A memo issued to staff from the master of the household Tony Johnstone-Burt, 62, a former Royal Navy Officer called the mission to protect the Queen and Prince Philip ‘HMS Bubble’.
The Queen was driven from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle here she began isolating on March 19, Prince Philip, 98, was flown down to join her from Sandringham shortly after.
In the memo Vice-admiral Johnstone-Burt explains that the staff would be doing their duty by not seeing their families for the duration of the lockdown in order to protect Her Majesty and Prince Philip.
Comparing the conditions to those he experienced while ‘at sea’ during his 40 years in the Navy he wrote: ‘There are 22 Royal Household staff inside the Bubble, and it struck me that our predicament is not dissimilar to my former life in the Royal Navy on a long overseas deployment.
‘Indeed, the challenges that we are facing whether self-isolating alone at home, or with our close household and families, have parallels with being at sea away from home for many months, and having to deal with a sense of dislocation, anxiety and uncertainty.’
The term ‘HMS bubble’ reportedly amused both the Queen and Philip, who himself served in the Navy where he was nicknamed ‘Big Bubble’.
In his uplifting message to staff, Mr Johnstone-Burt wrote: ‘I’m sure that we shall emerge as a stronger, more considerate and more resilient Royal Household team as a result and able to do our duty for the Queen.’
Members of the Royal staff believe to be isolating with the Queen include Her Majesty’s private secretary Sir Edward Young, and his own staff, who have all moved into the castle.
The staff are said to be split into two groups, who work away from their families on a ‘three weeks on, three weeks off’ basis.
Royal staff, including chefs, cleaners and officials, spend two weeks at home and a third week in quarantine during their time away from Windsor.
Under strict measures to protect the monarch, each employee is then tested for Covid-19 and has their temperature taken before they can begin another three-week rotation.
The queen has continued her duties with grace from the confines of Windsor Castle during the pandemic.
On April 5 more than 23.3million people tuned in to watch the Queen deliver an inspirational’ and ‘galvanising’ coronavirus TV address to the nation.
Her Majesty’s highly personal speech evoked Britain’s stoicism during the Second World War with viewers admitting they had a lump in their throat and tears in their eyes as she echoed Dame Vera Lynn’s words: ‘We will meet again’.
Three out of four people tuned in on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 at 8pm, putting the speech just outside the top 10 most watched broadcasts of all time in Britain.
Royal commentators said her ‘deeply moving’ words inspired confidence and boosted morale in an intervention being hailed as the ‘finest moment’ in her 68-year reign.
On May 8 the Queen paid tribute to Britain’s lockdown spirit with an electrifying speech on the 75th anniversary of VE Day, in which she said Second World War heroes would admire the nation’s response to the pandemic.
The monarch, who was 13 when war broke out in 1939, added: ‘It may seem hard that we cannot mark this special anniversary as we would wish. Instead we remember from our homes and our doorsteps.
‘But our streets are not empty; they are filled with the love and the care that we have for each other.
‘And when I look at our country today, and see what we are willing to do to protect and support one another, I say with pride that we are still a nation those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen would recognise and admire.’
She added ‘ Never give up, never despair – that was the message of VE Day.’
Her words were delivered to the very second that her father, George VI, gave his VE Day speech 75 years ago.
The Queen’s first steps back into public view come as the UK government begins its plan to transition out of lockdown.
From Monday, groups of up to six people will be able to meet outside in England as long as they observe social distancing as part of efforts to fight coronavirus.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said today: ‘This is a sensitive moment. We can’t just stay in lockdown forever. We have got to transition.’
Asked whether the lockdown will be tightened again if infection rates increase, Mr Raab told Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday: ‘We will target, if there is any uptick, and it could be in a locality, it could be in a particular setting, we will target very carefully measures that would apply to it so that we can take these steps but also keep control of the virus.’
A series of experts have raised concern about the moved to ease the lockdown in England, which takes effect from tomorrow, with the UK still getting 8,000 new infections a day.
Up to six people from six different households will be permitted to meet up in public places or gardens, meaning exercise classes and barbecues are back on the agenda.
Primary schools and nurseries have also been told they can start to reopen, while all non-essential shops can return from June 15.
In Scotland and Wales the loosening is far less dramatic, with only two households allowed to meet up at a time and people told not to travel more than five miles from home. Schools north of the border will not be back until after holidays there in August.
Asked whether the lockdown will be tightened again if infection rates increase, Mr Raab told Sky’s Ridge on Sunday: ‘We will target, if there is any uptick, and it could be in a locality, it could be in a particular setting, we will target very carefully measures that would apply to it so that we can take these steps but also keep control of the virus.’
Families across England will finally be able to see their elderly relatives again tomorrow, as millions of vulnerable people ‘shielding’ are allowed to spend time outdoors.
As part of the easing of lockdown restrictions, 2.2million vulnerable people will be able to go outside with members of their household, while continuing to follow social distancing guidelines.
Those who live alone will be able to meet outside with one other person from another household, in a move that will bring joy to thousands.
Boris Johnson today hailed the ‘resilience’ of those who have been shielding since March, with many having no face-to-face contact since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Prime Minister said: ‘I want to thank everyone who has followed the shielding guidance.
‘It is because of your patience and sacrifice that thousands of lives have been saved.
‘I do not underestimate just how difficult it has been for you, staying at home for the last ten weeks, and I want to pay tribute to your resilience.’
Mr Jenrick told the daily No10 briefing tonight that restrictions might need to be tightened again if ‘conditions become less favourable’.
Mr Jenrick said the next review of shielding measures will take place in the week commencing June 15 and officials will consider the next steps ‘more generally’ beyond June 30.
‘Following that review, the NHS will also write to all individuals on the shielding patient list with information about next steps on shielding advice and the support that will be available to them.
‘If the conditions become less favourable, our advice to those being asked to shield will, unfortunately, need to be tightened.
‘The government will continue to ensure that support is available to those who need it for as long as possible, and for as long as people are advised to follow the shielding guidance.
‘Once again, can I thank all those shielding for your patience, and for your fortitude.
‘Everybody across the country appreciates the unique challenges that you face, and we want to continue to do all we can to ensure that whilst you might be at home shielding for a bit longer, you are not alone,’ he said.