Coronavirus: Queen cancels Buckingham Palace garden parties - but audiences continue

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·5-min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 29: Guests gather on the lawn during the Queen's Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on May 29, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Queen's parties host thousands of people each summer. (Getty Images)

Buckingham Palace has cancelled this year’s garden parties amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but the Queen will continue her audiences this week.

She will also leave London for Easter in Windsor a week earlier than usual and may remain there for longer.

It comes after an announcement from the government that people should avoid social contact, including a measure that it would stop supporting mass gatherings.

The decision impacts the five parties to be held in London, but the Scottish event in July is still under review.

The Queen will still host an audience in Buckingham Palace with the Bishop of Hereford, and will still have her weekly meeting with Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister.

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Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex meets guests at the Queen's Garden Party in Buckingham Palace, central London on May 29, 2019. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson / POOL / AFP)        (Photo credit should read STUART C. WILSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Harry joined one of the parties in 2019. (Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 29: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex greet guests during the Queen's Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on May 29, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Queen greets some of the 8,000 guests at the party. (Getty Images)

Other events in the coming weeks “with large numbers of people” due to be attended by the Queen or other members of the Royal Family will be cancelled or postponed.

The annual Maundy Service at St George’s Chapel on 9 April will not go ahead, and investitures will be rearranged.

The palace said it was a “sensible precaution” in the current circumstances.

The Queen turns 94 next month, while Prince Charles is 71 and his wife Camilla is 72, putting them all in the high risk category for coronavirus.

Prince Charles and Camilla had already postponed a royal tour which was due to begin this week. They were scheduled to go to Cyprus and Jordan together, while Charles was also going to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On Tuesday, the Foreign Office changed its advice to warn against all but essential travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina and urged Britons to return home.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 15: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales during a garden party at Buckingham Palace on May 15, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Victoria Jones – WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The events are outside but guests queue to meet royals and to have tea and sandwiches. (Getty Images)

Palace garden parties host 8,000 people at a time in the Buckingham Palace gardens, and although they are outside, the guests will queue to meet the Queen.

Thousands of cups of tea are made and about 20,000 sandwiches and 20,000 slices of cake are consumed at each party.

Three of them are hosted by the Queen and two by charities.

The palace has said those who were due to go to this year’s parties will be automatically invited for the 2021 events.

Japan appeared to take the decision out of the palace’s hands by postponing the planned trip for Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masakois to the UK in May.

Nippon TV reported the government looked likely to postpone the trip, but Buckingham Palace said it would confirm in due course.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (C) poses after taking part in the Royal Maundy Service at St George's Chapel in Windsor, west of London on April 18, 2019. - Maundy Thursday is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter. The Queen commemorates Maundy by offering 'alms' to senior citizens - retired pensioners recommended by clergy and ministers of all denominations, in recognition of service to the Church and to the local Community. Each recipient receives two purses, one red and one white. (Photo by ARTHUR EDWARDS / various sources / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ARTHUR EDWARDS/AFP via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth at the 2019 Maundy Service. This year's will be cancelled. (Getty Images)

Other events in the royal calendar which could be affected include Royal Ascot, Trooping the Colour, and the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

The palace said it would make an announcement on the visit from the Emperor as well as Trooping the Colour and VE Day “in due course”.

The Queen spent the weekend in Windsor as she usually does, but returned to London on Monday. She is due to carry on with audiences, but her engagements for the week were also postponed.

Princess Anne continued with engagements this week, though was pictured wearing gloves throughout.

She is 69, so not yet in the high risk category, though her birthday is in August.

The Princess Royal, Vice-Patron of the equine charity, The British Horse Society, talks to Jennie Loriston-Clarke as she visits the Addington Equestrian Centre near Buckingham. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday March 16, 2020. During the visit she watched a display of world-class coaching demonstrations from top coaches, before giving a speech about the importance of having qualified coaches within the equestrian industry. See PA story ROYAL Anne. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Princess Anne continues with an engagement on Monday. (Press Association)

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Other working royals include the Queen’s cousins the Duke of Gloucester, 75, the Duke of Kent, 84, and Princess Alexandra who is 83.

On Monday evening, Palace spokesman said: “We are studying the implications of the new Government advice and its impact on forthcoming events.”

Some events had already been moved. The Earl of Wessex was due to hold a dinner at St James’s Palace in London for The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation on Monday, but it was called off.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales uses a Namaste gesture to greet Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood as he attends the Prince's Trust And TK Maxx & Homesense Awards at London Palladium on March 11, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Charles greets Ronnie Wood with a namaste gesture. (Getty Images)

An Anglo-Swedish Society reception at Buckingham Palace, also set to be hosted by Edward, on Tuesday has also been postponed.

Alexander Malmaeus, chairman of the society, said: “It was due to a duty of care. The Earl of Wessex and the Anglo-Swedish Society made the decision jointly.”

An Anglo-Netherlands Society centenary celebration on Tuesday, in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester at Kensington Palace, has been postponed.

The society said on its website: “We have taken this decision with a heavy heart, but it reflects our collective, precautionary judgement, taking full account of recent developments over the Covid-19 virus, including Government statements.”

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KING'S LYNN, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 25: Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozziconi attend the Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on December 25, 2019 in King's Lynn, United Kingdom. (Photo by UK Press Pool/UK Press via Getty Images)
Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi are due to get married at the end of May. (Getty Images)

Government advice on Monday includes the threat of fines and imprisonment to anyone who refuses to self-isolate.

The Royal Family has been following government advice on dealing with coronavirus in recent weeks.

Prince Charles opted to greet people with a namaste gesture at the Prince’s Trust awards, as well as at the Commonwealth Day service.

His son Prince Harry elbow bumped with Craig David, while Prince William kept his hands clasped to try to avoid shaking hands.

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Anne, the Princess Royal, carried on with an engagement to an equestrian centre where she met the British Horse Society’s education team.

A spokesman for the BHS said: “We’re doing exactly what the Government has advised. We have additional hand sanitisers and we’re encouraging people to wash their hands.”

Her engagement came before the government’s announcement to stop all non-essential travel and social contact.

The Chelsea Flower Show in May, which is often attended by at least one senior member of the Royal Family, has been cancelled.