Royals practise physical distancing as Charles self-isolates

Queen is in Windsor, Prince William and family in Norfolk and Charles in Scotland

The Queen is at Windsor and following “appropriate advice”, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are in self-isolation on Royal Deeside and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are at their family home in Norfolk.

As the coronavirus outbreak separates families across the UK, so it is that members of the royal family also do not know when they will next see each other in person.

News that Prince Charles has tested positive for Covid-19 – though his wife has not – raised concerns over his contact with his elderly mother, who will be 94 in April, and father, the Duke of Edinburgh, 98.

His last meeting with the Queen is known to have been on 12 March following an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Doctors have estimated that the earliest time Charles could have been infectious was the following day, 13 March.

It is not known whether the Queen has been tested. Buckingham Palace would only say that she “remains in good health” and is “following all the appropriate advice with regard to her welfare”.

Government advice for anyone over the age of 70 or with medical conditions is to practise physical distancing. The Queen has been doing that since leaving Buckingham Palace on 19 March and decamping to Windsor where she will stay for the foreseeable future.

Windsor Castle is her favourite residence, and where she and her sister, Margaret, spent most of their time during the second world war. Now closed to the public due to the virus crisis, it affords her greater protection than the busier Buckingham Palace, where more staff are based.

Prince Philip, who spends his time since retirement based at Sandringham, Norfolk, was helicoptered south to join her last Thursday, a decision likely to have been based on concerns about how long they would otherwise have been separated. He was not at Buckingham Palace at the same time as Charles.

It is understood that the couple have a skeleton staff attending only to them. This is likely to include the Queen’s dresser, Angela Kelly, and the Page of the Backstairs, Paul Whybrew, along with Philip’s valet and page. A housemaid, chef and footman are also understood to be part of the team.

In line with government guidance, the couple have not been visited by family, though the Duke of York lives on the Windsor estate and the Earl and Countess of Wessex in nearby Bagshot.

The prime minister’s weekly audience with the Queen is being conducted by telephone.

Charles, 71, and Camilla, 72, have left their London residence, Clarence House. They had been due to travel to Cyprus, Jordan and Bosnia on an official tour beginning 17 March, but this was cancelled. Instead the couple headed to Highgrove, Charles’s Gloucestershire home, on 13 March, from where he conducted several private meetings, some on Duchy of Cornwall business.

The couple traditionally spend time over Easter in Scotland, based at Charles’s 18th-century mansion, Birkhall, set on a 53,000-acre Highland estate on Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, that he inherited from his grandmother, the Queen Mother.

They arrived on Friday and Charles, known as the Duke of Rothesay when in Scotland, is said to have become unwell with mild coronavirus symptoms over the weekend.

With his condition not expected to escalate, he has been conducting daily business while self-isolating, including remaining in touch with his patronages and charities. A small retinue of domestic staff remains with them, though there is understood to be no physical interaction between the staff and the royals, who are believed to be isolating separately from each other in the house.

The Cambridges, meanwhile, have moved from their London residence at Kensington Palace to Anmer Hall, their Norfolk home, where they usually spend school holidays and where there is plenty of space for George, six, Charlotte, four, and Louis, almost two, to play.

It seems they are likely to be performing frontline royal roles during this crisis. Last week they visited staff answering calls at an NHS 111 call centre in Croydon, south London. In an Instagram post, William said the couple had been “proud to visit staff working at NHS 111 to pass on our personal thanks, along with those of my grandmother and father, to staff working around the clock to provide care and advice to those that need it most.”


Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

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