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Queen carries on with duties as Covid sacrifices praised amid No 10 party row

The Queen carried out a face-to-face audience at Windsor Castle today as she smiled and chatted with one of Britain's leading organists Thomas Trotter.

The 95-year-old monarch presented the musician with the Queen's Medal for Music, which he won last year, in the Oak Room - the sitting room where she spends much of her time, and which also doubles as her office.

Queen Elizabeth II continued with her duties today came as Sir Keir Starmer highlighted the sacrifices she made and leadership she showed during the pandemic at her husband Prince Philip's funeral in April.

It comes while England prepares for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to potentially impose the Government's 'Plan B' strategy for tackling Covid-19 almost immediately amid growing fears about the Omicron strain.

The possible restrictions could include a blanket order to work from home where possible, more mask-wearing, Covid passports and even a return to shielding for the vulnerable - but none of this has yet been confirmed.  

Queen Elizabeth II presents Thomas Trotter with the Queen's Medal for Music at an audience at Windsor Castle today

The Queen carries out a face-to-face audience at Windsor Castle today as she smiles and chats with organist Thomas Trotter

The Queen presented Mr Trotter with the Queen's Medal for Music, which he won last year, in the Oak Room at Windsor today

A meeting of the core 'Covid O' Cabinet committee will meet today to sign off the details amid reports that the new measures will also include isolating all contacts of positive Covid cases - not just those involving Omicron. 

The head of state, who is preparing to film her Christmas Day message to the nation in the coming days, usually has her weekly audience with the Prime Minister - either in person or by phone - later on Wednesdays.

Thomas Trotter: Organist, 64, who has pulled out all the stops in a long career

Thomas Trotter is a well-respected musician who has been the organist at St Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey since 1982.

The 64-year-old was also appointed Birmingham City Organist in 1983 and in 2002 won the Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumental award.

Mr Trotter, who has toured on four continents and played at festivals including the Proms, received honorary doctorates from both of Birmingham's universities in 2003 and 2006.

In his earlier years he was an organ scholar at King's College, Cambridge – and more recently was awarded the Queen's Medal for Music last year. 

This is presented annually to an annually to an outstanding individual or group of musicians who are deemed to have had a major influence on the musical life of the nation. 

It was established in 2005 at the suggestion of former Master of The Queen's Music, the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said today: 'Mr Thomas Trotter was received by The Queen when Her Majesty presented him with The Queen's Medal for Music. Ms Judith Weir, Master of The Queen's Music, was present.' 

The Queen has been resting on doctors' orders and only carrying out light duties since staying overnight in hospital for preliminary tests on October 20. 

She also missed the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in Westminster due to a sprained back. 

Labour leader Sir Keir highlighted the head of state's leadership and the sacrifices she made at the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral amid the Covid-19 during a fiery Prime Minister's Questions at the Commons today.

He was speaking as Boris Johnson faced the furore over claims Downing Street staff broke lockdown rules by holding a Christmas party last year.

Sir Keir told the Commons: 'Her Majesty the Queen sat alone when she marked the passing of the man she'd been married to for 73 years. Leadership, sacrifice – that's what gives leaders the moral authority to lead.

'Does the Prime Minister think he has the moral authority to lead and to ask the British people to stick to the rules?'

The Queen is likely to use her annual pre-recorded Christmas address, which she writes herself, to reflect on the ongoing challenges facing the country, as well as touching on her own personal grief with the loss of Philip.

The Royal Family is set to gather to celebrate Christmas with the monarch at her Norfolk country estate of Sandringham after last year's festivities were curtailed due to the pandemic.

Traditionally, the Queen also hosts a pre-Christmas lunch for her wider family the week before.

This usually takes place at Buckingham Palace, but building works at the London residence are likely to mean the Queen would have to hold this elsewhere.

The Queen was last pictured carrying out official public duties outside Windsor nearly two months ago on October 14, when she travelled to Cardiff to deliver a speech at the Welsh Senedd.

She also spent a day at the Ascot races on October 16 and presented the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes trophy, but this was not listed in the Court Circular as an official engagement. 

Sir Keir Starmer highlighted the sacrifices the Queen made during the pandemic at Prime Minister's Questions today

The Queen sits alone during the funeral of her husband Prince Philip in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on April 17

YESTERDAY -- Queen Elizabeth II appears on a screen via videolink from Windsor Castle, where she is in residence, during a virtual audience to receive the Ambassador of Somalia, Abdulkadir Ahmed Kheyr Abi, at Buckingham Palace in London

The Queen's Medal for Music is presented annually to a musician who has had a major influence on the musical life of the nation.

It comes after the Queen yesterday received the Ambassador of Somalia, Abdulkadir Ahmed Kheyr Abdi, who spoke to her via video-link from Buckingham Palace while she listened at Windsor Castle.

The Queen could be seen on screen wearing a vibrant orange dress, pearl necklace and one of Queen Victoria's diamond bow brooches.  

The Queen and Philip spent Christmas Day together at Windsor in 2020, without the rest of the family, after spending most of the year being cared for by a reduced number of staff in what was dubbed HMS Bubble.