Coronavirus: Queen cancels birthday gun salutes for first time amid COVID-19 pandemic

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·4-min read
The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery fire a 41 Gun Royal Salute to mark Queen Elizabeth II's 93rd birthday in Hyde Park, London. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
The 2019 gun salute for the Queen in Hyde Park. (Getty Images)

The Queen has requested none of the traditional gun salutes which take place on her birthday happen this year, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The Queen, who turns 94 on Tuesday, would usually have her real birthday marked by gun salutes in Hyde Park, Windsor Great Park and at the Tower of London.

But according to a palace source, this year, she has asked they not take place. It’s understood to be the first time they have not happened in her 68 year reign.

The source said: "Her Majesty was keen that no special measures were put in place to allow gun salutes as she did not feel it appropriate in the current circumstances."

The Queen is also understood to have waived the usual rules of local government flying the Union flag for her.

Read more: Why does the Queen have two birthdays?

Britain's Queen Elizabeth (2nd L), her husband Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh (3rd L), Princess Anne (3rd R), Prince Harry (2nd R) and Prince Charles (R) watch a flypast of aircraft from the balcony at Buckingham Palace in central London June 17, 2006. Thousands of tourists and Londoners waited in soaring temperatures on Saturday to watch the Queen as she attended the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony this year to mark her 80th birthday.  REUTERS/Stringer  (BRITAIN)
Trooping the Colour marks her official birthday each June - this is the 2006 celebration. (Reuters)

Government advice sent to local authorities says “you should continue to adhere to social distancing guidelines as set out by the Government” if flying the flag on 21 April.

It also says “In the current circumstances we are not expecting everyone to be able to follow this advice".

A Palace source has said all of the changes are "in line with Her Majesty’s wishes."

The Queen’s real birthday, 21 April, is usually marked privately, with the public celebration in June held for her official birthday.

However this year, Trooping the Colour will also not go ahead in the same way it usually does.

Read more: Prince William praises 'selfless commitment' of NHS as he opens Nightingale hospital Birmingham via videolink

Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (R) and his mother Britain's Queen Elizabeth II join the performers on stage during The Queen's Birthday Party concert on the occassion of Her Majesty's 92nd birthday at the Royal Albert Hall in London on April 21, 2018. (Photo by Andrew Parsons / POOL / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ANDREW PARSONS/AFP via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth waves during a special concert "The Queen's Birthday Party" to celebrate her 92nd birthday at the Royal Albert Hall in London. (Getty Images)

At the end of March, the Palace said: “In line with Government advice, it has been agreed that The Queen’s Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, will not go ahead in its traditional form.

“A number of other options are being considered, in line with relevant guidance.”

On Friday, her grandson Prince William confessed to being worried about his grandparents at this time because of the spread of coronavirus.

He told the BBC they were keeping them in isolation as much as possible, but that they were keeping in touch with family using technology.

Read more: Prince William and Kate lend voices to NHS mental health film as lockdown is extended

Asked if there was a royal zoom, William, 37, said: “We have done many a family thing, we have been talking to all the family online.”

His wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, added: “Your father and my parents and our families have loved keeping in touch with the children because it’s hard times, particularly over Easter not seeing each other.”

Any video calls made to the Queen on her birthday will be private.

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This year, Her Majesty is in Windsor Castle, where she arrived early for Easter Court amid the spread of coronavirus in the capital.

Her husband, Prince Philip, was also flown down to be with her, but they are understood to be keeping a skeleton staff with them.

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla are in Scotland, where they are staying at their Balmoral home, and Prince William and Kate have been staying at Anmer Hall, their Norfolk home.

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Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are in Los Angeles, where they arrived just before the border between the USA and Canada closed.

Though the Queen’s engagements have been postponed for the foreseeable future, she gave a rare address from Windsor Castle to the nation and the commonwealth, in which she said “we will meet again”.

She also recorded her first ever Easter message, in which she said: “The discovery of the risen Christ on the first Easter Day gave his followers new hope and fresh purpose, and we can all take heart from this.”

Buckingham Palace has been contacted for comment.