'I'm here': The Queen greets her guests at first in-person engagement since Covid scare
The Queen has held an in-person audience in the wake of her son, Prince Andrew, reaching a settlement in the sex abuse claim lawsuit he was facing in the US.
The 95-year-old monarch, who already had the official engagement set in her diary, met the incoming Defence Services Secretary Major General Eldon Millar, and his predecessor Rear Admiral James Macleod at Windsor Castle on Wednesday.
The day before, it was revealed Prince Andrew had reached a settlement agreement with his accuser Virginia Giuffre - reported to be a multimillion-pound sum.
Ms Guiffre accused the Duke of York of sexually assaulting her when she was 17-years-old, a minor under US law. Although the parties have now settled the case, the agreement is not an admission of guilt and Andrew has always strenuously denied the allegations against him.
The head of state's in-person appearance is her first since a Covid scare six days ago, suggesting she may have escaped the virus despite coming into contact with her other son, the Prince of Wales, who tested positive two days later.
It has been a challenging week for the monarch, despite having just reached her Platinum Jubilee, and the royal family.
Prince Charles also made headlines on Wednesday after police announced they are investigating cash-for-honours allegations linked to his charity, The Prince’s Foundation.
After both Charles and Camilla tested positive for the virus, Buckingham Palace continued to refuse to confirm whether the Queen tested positive or negative, citing medical privacy.
The only information the Palace did give was that the monarch was not displaying any symptoms.
The monarch will have taken daily lateral flow tests over the past seven days, in keeping with current guidelines, and will have been closely monitored by her royal physicians.
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In her Oak Room sitting room at her Berkshire castle, the Queen, in a patterned dress, greeted Maj Gen Millar on assuming his appointment, and his predecessor Rear Admiral Macleod on relinquishing his role.
She was standing during the audience, and holding a walking stick.
On the table behind her were family photographs of the Queen with her great-grandchildren, as well as an extra large Fortnum & Mason Milk & Dark Chocolate Selection Box, and a box of Bendicks Mint Collection – an assortment of dark mint chocolates.
The monarch shook hands with her guests.
The Defence Services Secretary is a member of the Royal Household, and they are the official link between the Queen and the Secretary of State for Defence and the Chiefs of Staff on all matters concerning the monarch’s relationship with the armed forces.
There will be much for Maj Gen Millar to discuss with the Queen, in the wake of Andrew being stripped of his military titles and agreeing to no longer use the HRH style.
Andrew's royal replacements in eight British regiments – including the prestigious post of Colonel of the Grenadier Guards – have yet to be announced.
Questions are also being raised over his service rank of Vice Admiral, but Buckingham Palace confirmed the situation has not changed and that the duke retains the rank.
As a former royal member of the armed forces who served in the Royal Navy, he was by convention promoted in line with his still-serving peers and made Vice Admiral by the Navy on his 55th birthday in 2015.
The Defence Services Secretary is on a three-year rotation.
The last time a new holder took on the appointment in 2019, the Queen held an audience with the incoming secretary, Rear Admiral Macleod, and the outgoing Air Vice-Marshal Garry Tunnicliffe.
But six days later, Andrew, in his role as Vice Admiral, received both of the military men at Buckingham Palace, in an official engagement recorded in the Court Circular in April 2019.
There will be no such audience in the wake of the Queen’s meeting.
The duke, who no longer uses his HRH style, does not carry out public duties, having been cast adrift from the monarchy as a result of the lawsuit.