Widowed Queen will be surrounded by tiny ‘bubble’ of staff and WON’T release a new birthday portrait when she marks her 95th this week without Philip by her side for the first time in seven decades – as family draws up ‘rota’ to keep her company
- Queen will face first birthday without husband Prince Philip in seven decades
- Monarch will turn 95 on Wednesday surrounded by tiny coterie of royal staff
- Plans to mark the day with a new portrait of Her Majesty are set to be shelved
The Queen faces her loneliest birthday this week, her first without Philip in seven decades.
The widowed monarch will turn 95 on Wednesday, surrounded only by the tiny coterie of staff that make up her Windsor ‘bubble’.
Plans to mark the day with a new portrait of her are set to be shelved because she is still in the official period of royal mourning for her beloved husband.
The glaring absence of Prince Philip will be impossible to ignore and the run-up to what should have been a joyous day is set to be overshadowed by speculation about the major rift in her family.
While onlookers were heartened by the sight of William and Harry in conversation as they left their grandfather’s funeral on Saturday, sources said a meaningful reconciliation between the brothers was still some way off.
Harry was yesterday said to be flying back to Los Angeles very soon after being seen with his brother and sister-in-law Kate for the first time in more than a year.
The Queen, 94, bowed her head as she attended Prince Philip’s funeral in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, yesterday
Her Majesty, who was married to the Duke of Edinburgh for 73 years, was forced to sit alone during the Covid-secure ceremony
The monarch was photographed leaving her Windsor home behind the wheel of a green Jaguar earlier today
That gives little time to heal open wounds and it is not known whether the 36-year-old saw his father Prince Charles outside of Saturday’s emotional proceedings.
Kate seemingly broke the ice outside St George’s Chapel by speaking to Harry, with whom she had once been so close.
As the family group walked back from the ceremony – an impromptu decision, as a fleet of state cars had been laid on for the mourners – she hung back slightly so the brothers, driven apart by Harry and Meghan’s acrimonious decision to quit royal duties and move to the US, could talk.
The body language was stilted and the exchange appeared to be little more than polite chit chat, but it was a start.
Senior royals, including the Queen, Charles, William and Harry, spent more than an hour together outside in the castle grounds before going their separate ways by 6pm.
It was unlikely they had any serious discussions but it was the most time they had spent together as a family since Harry and Meghan quit the UK more than a year ago.
Royal sources however last night warned that ‘one swallow does not a summer make’ and the rift between the two men, particularly after the string of hurtful and highly damaging allegations made by the Sussexes in their bombshell Oprah interview last month, remained deep.
One insider went so far as to suggest that the acrimony between the brothers could take years to heal, if ever.
And they stressed there was still widespread anger in the Royal Family and the household at large at the accusations levelled against them by the couple – in particularly the claims of racism and that Meghan was left suicidal through lack of support.
Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, Prince William, Peter Phillips, Prince Harry, Earl of Snowdon and Timothy Laurence follow the coffin in the ceremonial procession
Prince Charles walks behind the Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin at it makes its way to St George’s Chapel
The Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Cambridge look towards Philip’s coffin before it was lowered into the Royal Vault
Prince Harry was sat directly across from his older brother and his wife Kate having flown in without his wife Meghan
The allegations are strongly contested by the family privately, who believe Harry and Meghan have behaved ‘appallingly’, although they are attempting to put on a conciliatory public face.
It is unlikely that the two brothers would spend much time together before Harry flies back to the US, but it is hoped that a dialogue has now been started.
The scenes at Windsor Castle played out as the eyes of the nation saw the Queen forced by coronavirus rules to sit alone to say goodbye to her beloved husband at St George’s.
Sources say she is likely to spend her birthday as she has done most other days this year – driving herself to Frogmore, one of her favourite parts of the estate, to walk her new puppies, Fergus, a dorgi, and corgi Muick.
That is where she was yesterday, taking solace in the familiar as she comes to terms with the rest of her life without Philip.
The monarch drove herself alone from the castle for some quiet contemplation at Frogmore, where the cherry trees are still in bloom and spring flowers adorn the banks of the ornamental lakes.
The farewell note from his dear Elizabeth
Wreath of white blooms on top of Prince Philip’s funeral
Perched amid the wreath of white blooms on top of her husband’s coffin, the card – edged in black – was handwritten.
There has been much speculation that the Queen used her childhood nickname, Lilibet, in her last message to Philip.
It was a surprise to some, it has to be said.
As a 13-year-old girl, she was besotted with her future husband from the moment she laid eyes on him.
But, even so, the now 94-year-old monarch has never been known for highly public expressions of emotion.
In fact, the message, pictured, read simply: ‘In loving memory, Elizabeth.’
It is this kind of routine which, sources say, is helping to keep life on an even keel. It is just a few minutes from Frogmore Cottage, where Harry has been staying. When he lived there with Meghan, the Queen would sometimes walk or ride down to say hello.
While official national mourning ended at 8am yesterday, with the Union flag being returned to full mast on government buildings, the Queen and her family will remain in mourning until Thursday, the day after the landmark birthday.
There will be no gun salute to mark the occasion with the traditional 41-gun and 21-gun salutes in Hyde Park and the Tower of London both cancelled, the Ministry of Defence said last night.
It is understood the Queen will at most receive visits from Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, probably along with his wife Sophie. There will be calls from the Prince of Wales, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and others.
The Queen is expected to be back working the following day as normal, dealing with her boxes of red papers.
Aides are already quietly working behind the scenes on a series of low-key engagements from Windsor, most probably via video call. Sources said last night that the Queen had shown ‘remarkable’ resilience and fortitude last week and had ‘led by example’.
They have also confirmed her first public engagement outside of the castle will be when she attends the state opening of Parliament on May 11, with her son and heir, Prince Charles.
Last week the Mail revealed that the monarch will never be allowed to ‘walk alone’ by her family following the death of her beloved husband of 73 years.
Those who will be seen at her side are the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and Princess Anne.
Sources stressed that the elderly monarch, who says Prince Philip’s death has left a ‘huge void’ in her life, will continue to meet as many commitments as possible once the two weeks of mourning end.
They point out that the Queen has always undertaken solo engagements, both before and after her husband officially retired in 2017. But there is a concerted effort under way to ensure she has more support in the future, should she need it.
In California, Meghan issued a press release to announce that she was watching the funeral from home.
It was sent out by her and Harry’s ‘Global Press Secretary’ and read: ‘I can confirm that The Duchess will be watching from home as she was hopeful to be able to attend, but was not cleared for travel by her physician at this stage in her pregnancy.’
(Top row, left to right) Zara and Mike Tindall, Jack Brooksbank, Princess Eugenie, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi and Princess Eugenie, (front row, left to right) the Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke of Cambridge, the Earl of Wessex, James Viscount Severn, the Countess of Wessex, Lady Louise Windsor, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Prince of Wales during the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of York during the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh in St George’s Chapel
Princess Eugenie of York (R) and her husband Jack Brooksbank sit quietly together with their hands clasped
Members of the Royal family march behind the coffin during the ceremonial funeral procession of Prince Philip
It raised eyebrows in royal circles after it made great play of describing how Harry and his grandfather ‘hold a unique connection in their shared active service – including in combat – as part of the British Armed Forces’.
It went on to list Harry’s achievements in his ten-year military career, including two tours of duty on the front line in Afghanistan.
However Prince Andrew also enjoyed a 21-year military career and fought in the Falklands War.
The announcement struck another slightly jarring note by noting the wreath the Sussexes laid for Philip in St George’s Chapel – and including a heavy plug for its maker.
Buckingham Palace had declined to discuss floral tributes from members of the Royal Family, saying they were ‘personal and private’.
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