Twenty two 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 coronavirus 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, 94, moved from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle on March 19 where she began isolating, 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’, the Sun revealed along with the memo.
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.
An inside source the The Sun that the utmost priority was to safeguard the good health of the Monarch and her consort: ‘The most important thing is to protect the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh from the virus. If something happened to them it doesn’t bear thinking about.’
The Queen has not seen any other members of her family since the start of the lockdown on March 23.
Addressing the nation on April 5 in a pre-recorded message, the monarch promised that ‘we will meet again.’
However, like many people across the nation, she has been keeping in touch with her loved ones via video calls.
It is said she will wish her great-granddaughter Princess Charlotte a happy birthday via video conference app Zoom next Saturday when the young royal turns five.
Charlotte, who grew up with tablets, is said not to be ‘fazed’ by the circumstances surrounding her big day this year.
Tony Johnstone-Burt, who has 40 years of experience working in the Royal Navy, took his position as Master of the Household in 2013 and oversees the staff covering everything from housekeeping to maintenance and entertainment.
The father-of-five made headline in September 2019 when it was revealed by the Mail on Sunday that he shared a tense conversation with the Queen’s second son Prince Andrew.
The two men are said to have argued after the Duke of York was refused usage of a Buckingham Palace room for his [email protected] initiative, which helps connect entrepreneurs with potential patrons.
Prince Andrew was informed the room was not available and was said to have been fine with the decision until Mr Johnstone-Burt – the Queen’s Head of Household – continued to speak his mind about his project.
The pair then started arguing with one another, and the Duke was said to have got ‘very cross’.
Speaking to the Daily Mail’s Sebastian Shakespeare a source said: ‘Andrew was fine with that, but the aide then started speaking his mind about [email protected]’
‘It was like poking a bear. HRH turned on him and accused him of not listening and getting the wrong end of the stick.
‘Andrew told him to go and have a word with his private secretary. It was more handbags than hand grenades.’
Buckingham Palace declined to comment on what the row was about at the time, but in a statement confirmed that incident had taken place.