Britain’s Queen Elizabeth carried out her first face-to-face engagement this year on Wednesday, two days after the country’s strict COVID-19 lockdown was eased.
The 94-year-old queen, who has continued to carry out her official duties by videolink since a lockdown was imposed at the start of the year, visited the Air Forces memorial in Runnymede to celebrate the centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force.
Runnymede is close to Windsor Castle, west of London, where the queen has been staying with her 99-year-old husband Prince Philip, who recently spent 4 weeks in hospital for treatment for an infection and to have a heart procedure.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been here,” said the monarch, who is also Queen of Australia, as she arrived.
The last engagement she performed in public came in December at Windsor when she extended her thanks to local volunteers and key workers, and has rarely left the castle since the outbreak of the pandemic in March last year.
Earlier this month, the royal family was plunged into its biggest crisis in decades by the interview Prince Harry and his wife Meghan gave to Oprah Winfrey in which the queen’s grandson criticized his relatives for failing to stand up to what he regarded as abusive press treatment of his wife.
Meghan said a member of the royal family had made a racist comment by asking how dark their son Archie’s skin might be before he was born.
In a statement, Queen Elizabeth said the royals were saddened by the “challenging experiences” of Harry and Meghan, and vowed their concerns would be seriously addressed in private by the family, although adding “some recollections may vary”.