Queen seen in public for first time since coronavirus lockdown began

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent

The Queen has made her first public appearance since the coronavirus lockdown, as she was pictured riding a horse in Windsor Castle’s grounds.

The Queen, who is 94, has made two televised addresses and released an audio message since the nation was told to stay at home, but has not been seen out and about.

Two images of the monarch riding Balmoral Fern, a 14-year-old fell pony, in Windsor Home Park, the grounds around Windsor Castle, have been released.

They’re the first pictures of the Queen outside since she was seen leaving Buckingham Palace in the middle of March, to relocate to her Windsor home.

She and Prince Philip, 98, have been there since.

The Queen has been in residence at Windsor Castle during the coronavirus pandemic. (Buckingham Palace/PA Images)

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The monarch celebrated her own birthday in lockdown and had to see other events she would usually attend in person go past without being able to mark them.

She missed out on Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday at church, and the planned celebrations for the 75th anniversary of VE Day were scaled back.

But in the new pictures she appears to be enjoying the warm weather which bathed Britain over the weekend.

She wore a colourful headscarf and smartly dressed in a tweed jacket, jodhpurs, white gloves and boots for the ride.

The photos come on the eve of further loosening of lockdown restrictions, with those who were told to shield allowed to leave their homes for the first time in weeks.

It means the Queen, whose age puts her at higher risk of coronavirus, could see some of her family members from a two-metre distance.

Edward and Sophie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, and their children Lady Louise Windsor and James, the Viscount Severn, live near to the Queen and usually enjoy a close relationship with her because of it.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, out riding at Windsor Castle in 1961. (PA Images)
The Queen and Princess Anne riding near Windsor Castle in 2002. (PA Images)

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Her son Prince Andrew also lives nearby, with his former wife, Sarah Ferguson. While Princess Beatrice appears to have stayed in London, their daughter Eugenie and son-in-law Jack Brooksbank seem to be with them in Windsor.

However it could be longer before she sees the rest of her family. Her son Charles and his wife Camilla are in Scotland, where the rules around the coronavirus lockdown are different to England.

Her grandson Prince William and his family are in Norfolk. Their daughter Princess Charlotte is in reception and so in the right year group to return to school.

But as school is in London and her older brother Prince George won’t be returning, it’s not clear if the Cambridge family will return to their Kensington home or continue to educate her at home.

The Queen will have to stick to video calls with Prince Harry as he and his family are in Los Angeles. Harry, Meghan and Archie are known to have called the Queen on her birthday.

Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne riding at Ascot in 1975. (PA Images)
US president Ronald Reagan riding in Windsor Home Park while staying as a guest of Queen Elizabeth II in 1982. (PA Images)

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Windsor is said to be one of the Queen’s favourite royal residences. She and her sister Margaret Rose were brought up there during the Second World War and it’s where she spends every weekend when she works from Buckingham Palace.

She was devastated when large parts were damaged in a fire in 1992.

Horse riding has been a passion of hers throughout her life, and she has bred and raced horses for decades.

The fell pony in the new images appears to have been named after her private Scottish home, Balmoral, where she goes all summer.

It looks likely she will stay in Windsor Castle for some time this year. She arrived there earlier than usual for Easter Court, on 19 March, and has had to stay there since, owing to the pandemic.

She carried on many of her engagements before she left the capital but is restricted to working from home now. She carries out her weekly audience with the prime minister over the phone.

She made an address to the nation about the pandemic, and one for VE Day, and also released a message for Easter, thought to be the first time she had done so.

Her annual garden parties at Buckingham Palace had to be cancelled, and investitures have been moved. Her usual birthday honours list, which would come out before her official birthday, has been postponed until the autumn, and the Trooping the Colour will not take place in the same way.

The closure of the royal palaces during the summer is set to have a big impact on the royals’ bank balance, with staff facing a pay freeze amid a blackhole of millions of pounds.

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