Heartbreaking pictures yesterday showed the Queen sitting alone at her husband's funeral, unable to get close to her family due to Covid restrictions.

The 94-year-old monarch, grieving the loss of Prince Philip, will rely on her household staff for support - a select group branded 'HMS Bubble'.

Since the start of the first lockdown, the Queen has been at Windsor Castle, where the Duke of Edinburgh died peacefully on April 9.

Her closest aides have been a source of support throughout the pandemic, during which time she has been unable to see her own family for long periods.

Among those closest to her, the Telegraph reports, are senior dresser Angela Kelly, head groom, Terry Pendry, private secretary Sir Edward Young and page of the backstairs, Paul Whybrew.

The Queen's senior dresser, Angela Kelly, is one of her closest aides
The Queen's senior dresser, Angela Kelly, is one of her closest aides

The group was christened 'HMS Bubble', a joke the Queen and Prince Philip were said to find very amusing, by Vice-Admiral Sir Tony Johnstone-Burt, master of the household.

In an email to staff the former naval officer likened their situation to being out at sea.

He wrote: “There are 22 Royal Household staff inside the Bubble, and it struck me that our predicament is not dissimilar to my former life in the Royal Navy on a long overseas deployment.

“Indeed, the challenges that we are facing, whether self-isolating alone at home, or with our close household and families, have parallels with being at sea, away from home for many months, and having to deal with a sense of dislocation, anxiety and uncertainty.

Sir Tony Johnstone-Burt, who came up with the term 'HMS Bubble'
Sir Tony Johnstone-Burt, who came up with the term 'HMS Bubble'
The Queen with head groom Terry Pendry, one of the 22 staff in her bubble
The Queen with head groom Terry Pendry, one of the 22 staff in her bubble

"Regardless of the roles we perform, we do them to an exceptional standard to allow the Queen and other members to do their
duty to the best of their ability, too.”

Ms Kelly, 62, is said to have struck up a close relationship with the monarch.

The senior dresser, who grew up in a council house in Merseyside, is said to know her "inside out", and has been visiting her every day.

Mr Pendry is expected to be on hand when the Queen spends time with her favourite ponies, Carltonlima Emma and Balmoral Fern, in the coming weeks.

Paul Whybrew (left) is said to be a calming influence in the royal household
Paul Whybrew (left) is said to be a calming influence in the royal household
The Queen at Prince Philip's funeral at Windsor Castle yesterday
The Queen at Prince Philip's funeral at Windsor Castle yesterday

Mr Whybrew, nicknamed 'Tall Paul' is reputed to be a calming influence, and accompanies the Queen when she settles down to watch TV.

He famously featured in the famous James Bond sketch for the 2012 Olympics alongside Daniel Craig.

She will also be heavily reliant on her ladies-in-waiting for support, it is reported.

Lady Susan Hussey is one of the ladies-in-waiting who the Queen is expected to rely on for support
Lady Susan Hussey is one of the ladies-in-waiting who the Queen is expected to rely on for support
Dame Annabel Whitehead will be a source of support for the monarch, it is believed
Dame Annabel Whitehead will be a source of support for the monarch, it is believed

These include Lady Susan Hussey, Dame Mary Anne Morrison, Lady Elton, Dame Annabel Whitehead and the Countess of Airlie, 88.

In spite of her heartbreak at losing her husband of more than 70 years, the Queen is understood to be determined to get back to work, having already held a telephone conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Yesterday she was seen having to keep her distance from her family because they are not members of her bubble.

However she is allowed to meet them outdoors, with sons Prince Andrew and Prince Edward living nearby.

Royal expert Penny Junor has said the image of the grieving Queen sitting by herself reflected the “remarkable woman” that the monarch is.

The Queen yesterday said farewell to husband Prince Philip, who died aged 99 on April 9
The Queen yesterday said farewell to husband Prince Philip, who died aged 99 on April 9

The royal biographer wrote in The Sun : “Ever resilient, ever composed, she has kept calm and carried on. As she will do now, as Prince Philip would expect her to do."

Before the service began, the Queen was on her own for a full ten minutes and was seen with her head bowed in a quiet moment of reflection.

Covid restrictions saw members of the royal family sit with their own households with social distancing in place and face masks worn.

Junor said that Philip's own character will have helped the Queen cope with the funeral.

She wrote: “And with his practical, unsentimental, stiff-upper-lip attitude, he will, I have no doubt, have provided succour, comfort and the resolve to keep on going, to keep the tears for private moments and not for public display.”