United Kingdom

Queen greets foreign ambassadors in Buckingham Palace via a video call from Windsor Castle

The Queen has held her first virtual diplomatic audience today, after greeting foreign ambassadors in Buckingham Palace via video call from Windsor Castle.

Following tradition, three ambassadors presented their credentials to the monarch but via a video link, staged in line with medical advice.

Her Majesty, 94, has been staying with Prince Philip, 99, at the Berkshire residence during the pandemic, and announced earlier this week that they will remain at Windsor Castle for Christmas, forgoing the annual royal gathering at Sandringham.

The Queen (pictured) has held her first virtual diplomatic audience today, after greeting foreign ambassadors in Buckingham Palace via video call from Windsor Castle

Following tradition, three ambassadors presented their credentials to the monarch but via a video link, staged in line with medical advice. Pictured right: Sophie Katsarava, the Ambassador of Georgia, who was at London's Buckingham Palace

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: 'Diplomatic audiences are a long standing and traditional part of the monarch's role and the hope has always been to restart them as soon as possible.

'A variety of options were considered in line with current guidelines to reintroduce diplomatic audiences while retaining some of the long-established ceremonial elements, such as the use of Buckingham Palace.'

She added: 'At this time, in line with medical advice, Her Majesty will conduct diplomatic audiences virtually from Windsor Castle.'

The Queen held three separate diplomatic audiences with Sophie Katsarava, ambassador of Georgia, Gil da Costa, ambassador of Timor-Leste also known as East Timor, and Ferenc Kumin, ambassador of Hungary, and his wife Viktoria Kumin.

The diplomats were in the Equerry's Room at Buckingham Palace while the Queen was sitting in the Oak Room at Windsor Castle. 

Her Majesty (pictured left talking to Sophie Katsarava), 94, has been staying with Prince Philip, 99, at the Berkshire residence during the pandemic

Diplomatic audiences have remained almost unchanged since the Victorian era with ambassadors still collected from their embassy or residence in a State landau, a ceremonial horse-drawn carriage, and taken to Buckingham Palace to present their credentials the Queen.

Tradition was followed for today's unique event with the top diplomats enjoying a horse-drawn ride through the streets of London to the monarch's official residence.

The Queen has held an audience via video link before speaking virtually with Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York, upon his appointment in July.

The head of state's last audience in person at Buckingham Palace was on March 18, with Commodore Stephen Moorhouse, the outgoing commanding officer of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, and his successor Captain Angus Essenhigh.

It comes after it was announced that the Queen and Prince Philip will spend Christmas 'quietly' at Windsor Castle. 

The Queen held three separate diplomatic audiences with Sophie Katsarava, ambassador of Georgia, Gil da Costa (pictured), ambassador of Timor-Leste also known as East Timor, and Ferenc Kumin, ambassador of Hungary, and his wife Viktoria Kumin

The diplomats were in the Equerry's Room (pictured) at Buckingham Palace while the Queen was sitting in the Oak Room at Windsor Castle

The Queen appears on a screen via videolink from Windsor Castle, where she is in residence, during a virtual audience with Dr. Ferenc Kumin, Ambassador of Hungary, and his wife Viktoria 

The couple traditionally spend the festive season with close family at Sandringham, in Norfolk. But this year they will forgo the festivities and remain at Windsor Castle, where they have been isolating with a 'bubble' of staff since October. 

It is understood the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will not take advantage of the relaxed Covid restrictions to form a Christmas bubble with other households. 

It means the couple face spending Christmas Day without any of their four children for the first time since 1949, when the then Princess Elizabeth left a one-year-old Charles in the UK so she could be with Prince Philip in Malta.  

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will spend Christmas at Highgrove, in Gloucestershire, although they expect to see the Queen and Prince Philip at Windsor at some point over the festive season.

Camilla will also spend time with her family. In Tier 2 regions, like Windsor, up to six people from different households are able to mix outdoors. 

This means the Queen and Prince Philip could meet with family members for horse riding or walks in the grounds of Windsor Castle. 

The Queen cancels Christmas gift-giving ceremony for royal staff for the first time in her reign due to Covid - as she prepares for a 'quiet' yuletide at Windsor with Prince Philip 

The Queen has been forced to cancel her annual Christmas gift-giving ceremony for the first time in her reign to Covid restrictions.

Every year the Monarch, 94, order presents for every single member of the royal household, which are usually given to them along with a Christmas pudding in the Advent period. 

Past favourites include a special trinket box or a photo frame engraved with her personal cypher and champagne flutes. 

The Queen personally hands over her token of appreciation to a small selection of staff by the Christmas trees at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle as a special thank you for their loyal service, before she de-camps to Sandringham until February.

However, this year the intimate ceremonies have been cancelled due to social distancing regulations and the need for the 94-year-old monarch to stay in a strict operational bubble.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, who will be spending Christmas 'quietly' at Windsor Castle this year, will not personally hand over gifts to royal staff, as has been the tradition throughout the 94-year-old Monarch's reign

Known to spend thousands of pounds on her staff at Christmas, with favourites including a Christmas pudding, champagne flutes or engraved trinket boxes, the Queen will still gift presents but, due to the pandemic, won't hand them over personally

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will spend Christmas 'quietly' at Windsor Castle.  

Royal employees have also been informed, unsurprisingly, that the Palace’s main official Christmas party, as well as all smaller staff events, have been cancelled.  

The annual lunch the monarch holds on the Wednesday before Christmas for her own extended family - which normally sees more than 25 royals and their children sit down to a full turkey lunch - has also, inevitably, fallen by the wayside, sources confirmed. 

‘It’s a great shame but inevitable and the right thing to do,’ a source said.

‘The staff will still receive a gift from the Queen as usual but there will be no special moment with Her Majesty. It’s as much a disappointment for her as it will be for them, as it’s a hugely special time of the year.

‘And like offices around the country there will be no Christmas parties at Buckingham Palace or any of the royal residences this year. It’s the way it has to be.’

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