Cover Image: @RoyalFamily/Twitter

The monarch, who wasn't wearing a mask, was joined by Prince William for her first public engagement since March 2020

In a rare appearance since March, Queen Elizabeth stepped out for her first official engagement in public last week, in the company of her grandson and future king, Prince William.

The 94-year-old monarch had been self-isolating with Prince Philip, 99, at Windsor Castle in Berkshire for the past seven months, stepping out only to attend Princess Beatrice’s wedding ceremony and for a summer vacation at Balmoral estate in Scotland and Sandringham estate in Norfolk with a small group of staff.

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It had been reported then that the Queen would not be returning to her official residence at Buckingham Palace, and would instead continue residing at Windsor Castle for the foreseeable future, commuting to engagements in London if deemed safe.

Yesterday, the Queen and William visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down in southwest England, a top-secret research lab that has been helping to study the Covid-19 virus.

What drew the attention—and concern—of many was the fact that both senior royals were not wearing face coverings, despite recommendations by the government of the United Kingdom to wear one in indoor places where “social distancing may be difficult and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.”

According to Buckingham Palace, the decision was made after consulting with the Queen’s medics and scientists at the Porton Down military research facility.

The pair adhered strictly to social distancing guidelines, however, arriving separately and staying two metres apart. Aides also shared that all 48 people who were due to come into close contact with the royals had been tested for Covid-19.

The senior royals were greeted by chief executive Gary Aitkenhead, who took them on a private tour of the Energetics Enclosure to see displays of weaponry and tactics used in counterintelligence, as well as a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation.

The Queen and William then met with counter-terrorism staff, speaking with personnel involved in identifying Novichok as the nerve agent used to poison former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in 2018. The monarch also officially opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre—an explosive materials research centre—during the visit.

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