Watch: Queen carries out first engagement outside of royal palaces
The Queen made her first public appearance outside of the royal palaces on Thursday when she joined grandson Prince William on a visit to the top-secret science facility at Porton Down, in Wiltshire.
The science park near Salisbury is home to two government facilities and is probably best known for its part in the response to the 2018 Novichok poisoning.
And while her visit was mostly to do with seeing the site’s counter intelligence operation and thanking scientists and staff involved in the clean-up of the nerve agent two years ago, the monarch did appear to give a nod to the current pandemic.
Eagle-eyed tweeters noticed Her Majesty’s brooch bore a striking resemblance to the coronavirus.
The brooch was a gift from Prince Philip in 1966, and it’s one she has worn on many occasions, including in the 2017 portraits of them to mark their platinum anniversary.
One person tweeted: “HM wore pink & sported a brooch that looked remarkably like the graphic being used to traumatise the entire world.”
He also noted that Philip once said that if he was reincarnated he would like to “return as a deadly virus in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation”.
Another asked: “Was the queen wearing a coronavirus brooch today at Porton Down??”
One said: “Anyone else spot the Queen’s COVID-19 brooch?”
The brooch was made by Andrew Grima, and is referred to as the Grima or Scarab brooch. It clearly means a lot to the Queen, because she wears it on landmark occasions, including in 2011 for her trip to Ireland, the first trip by a reigning monarch for 100 years.
It’s made of yellow gold with a carved ruby and diamonds.
The Queen’s trip to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down included seeing the Linear Accelerator (Linac), an X-ray machine used for inspecting weapons and munitions, and she and William watched an explosive-detection scenario as police sniffer dog Max was tasked with finding explosives in a white van.
But the Queen did speak briefly about the current situation, saying: “It’s doubling itself again.”
After she was told the situation was being monitored, she said: “Well I suppose it was expected?”
Professor Tim Atkins, who co-ordinates the Dstl’s COVID-19 response, replied: “Predicted ma’am, yes.”
The Queen added: “With all these horrible new things…”
Prof Atkins responded: “Absolutely, it’s an emerging new disease.”
No one wore a mask during the Queen’s visit, with the royal following the advice of her own medics, as all the staff had been tested for coronavirus before the engagement, and were negative.
However, Kensington Palace declined to comment on whether William was tested for coronavirus to go on the trip with his grandmother. He kept a distance from her throughout the day and arrived separately.
PA added “it is understood the duke was also tested in order to accompany his grandmother, and was negative”.
Pressure group Republic criticised the Queen for not wearing a mask, though much of the visit was either outside or in structures like gazebos.
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “Specific advice has been sought from the medical household and relevant parties, and all necessary precautions taken, working closely with Dstl.”
Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, said: “The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge will inevitably be criticised for not wearing a face covering, but medical advice was sought while the royal visit was being planned and social distancing seemingly was maintained throughout.”
Many members of the Royal Family, including Prince William and Kate, Prince Edward and Sophie, and Prince Charles and Camilla, have been pictured in face coverings on their engagements.
The incoming tier two restrictions in London are likely to affect how William and his wife Kate can work in the coming weeks, but the Queen, who moved back to Windsor Castle instead of Buckingham Palace, is still in tier one.
Tier two restrictions means household mixing in indoor settings is banned.