The Queen has returned to royal duties, four days after the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, to mark the retirement of her household’s most senior official.
The monarch held her first in-person event to host a ceremony at Windsor as William Peel formally stood down as Lord Chamberlain. The earl had overseen the arrangements for the duke’s funeral, known as Operation Forth Bridge. He had handed responsibility for the operation to his successor, former MI5 spy chief Andrew Parker, just a week before Prince Philip died at Windsor Castle.
The Lord Chamberlain’s Office, led by the Queen’s Comptroller, Lt Col Michael Vernon, is tasked with the practical side of the service on Saturday. But in overall charge is Lord Parker, who took up his new role on 1 April following Peel’s retirement after more than 14 years in the post.
Reports have speculated that the Queen might have to sit on her own during the funeral in St George’s chapel because Covid rules state that people must stay at least 2 metres apart from anyone who is not part of their household.
The Queen does not meet the requirements under the rules to join a support bubble because she does not live alone. However, a member of her Windsor Castle staff would be allowed to sit with her, and it seems unlikely the monarch will not have someone to accompany her at her husband’s funeral.
The 30 mourners allowed at the ceremony under coronavirus rules must wear face coverings during the service and are not allowed to sing. Government rules state only one “professional” person can sing at funerals and only up to three individuals can sing “if it is essential to an act of worship”.
The armed forces are stepping up preparations for the duke’s funeral, which will feature servicemen and women from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, army and RAF alongside senior military brass.
Soldiers from the Corps of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers are believed to be working to prepare the special Land Rover, which the duke helped design, that will carry his coffin on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Princess Royal took part in her first official event since the death of her father, joining the Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s spring conference via video link in her role as the organisation’s patron.