United Kingdom

Queen performs her second official engagement in two days

The Queen has formally welcomed her new Lord Chamberlain to his post as she carried out her second official engagement after the Duke of Edinburgh's death.

The monarch, 94, stoically returned to royal duties on Tuesday, just four days after Prince Philip died at Windsor Castle, hosting a retirement ceremony for her right-hand man of 14 years, the Earl Peel.

On Wednesday, she met with his successor former MI5 spy chief, Andrew Parker, Baron Parker of Minsmere, who took over from Earl Peel at the start of the month. 

Baron Parker, who served as head of the security service until last year, has taken charge of funeral arrangements for Prince Philip, known as Operation Forth Bridge. 

Baron Parker hosted the Queen's first visit to MI5's headquarters in February last year, he left the post in April 2020

The monarch, 94, stoically returned to royal duties on Tuesday, just four days after Prince Philip died at Windsor Castle, hosting a retirement ceremony for her right-hand man of 14 years, the Earl Peel (pictured last month, left; and with the Earl Peel in 2013, right)

The Lord Chamberlain's Office, led by the Queen's Comptroller Lieutenant Colonel Michael Vernon, is tasked with the practical side of the day. But in overall charge is Andrew Parker (pictured), Baron Parker of Minsmere, who took up his new role on April 1, following the Earl Peel's (pictured left) retirement after more than 14 years in the post

It comes after her husband Prince Philip (pictured with the Queen in June last year) died peacefully at Windsor Castle, aged 99, on Friday

The Court Circular said: 'The Lord Parker of Minsmere had an audience of the Queen today, kissed hands upon his appointment as Lord Chamberlain and received from Her Majesty the Wand and Insignia of Office and the Badge of Chancellor of the Royal Victorian Order, when the Queen invested him with the Insignia of a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order.'

Baron Parker officially took up his new role on April 1, following the Earl Peel's retirement after more than 14 years in the post.

Andrew Parker, Baron Parker of Minsmere

During his MI5 career Baron Parker, above, led the intelligence agency's response to the July 7 London terrorist attacks in 2005

Baron Parker served as director general of the MI5 from April 2013 until last year and was a career intelligence officer having joined the MI5 in 1983.

He hosted the Queen's first visit to MI5's headquarters in central London in February last year, when she praised the intelligence agency's officers for the 'tireless work you do to keep our country safe'. 

During his MI5 career Baron Parker, born in 1962, led the intelligence agency's response to the July 7 London terrorist attacks in 2005. 

The following year his teams played the lead role in the disruption of al Qaeda's attempt to attack multiple airliners with bombs hidden in drinks bottles.

He was later promoted to deputy director general of MI5 in 2007 before becoming head of the security service in 2013. 

He retired from the post in April last year and in an interview that month said the pandemic could force ministers to 'adjust the dials' on public spending, potentially taking cash away from areas such as the intelligence agencies in the future. 

The Earl Peel had earlier announced his intention to retire but delayed handing the role over due to the pandemic. 

Baron Parker, who hosted a visit to MI5 headquarters by the Queen in February last year, served as director general of the security service since April 2013. 

During his MI5 career Baron Parker led the intelligence agency's response to the July 7 London terrorist attacks in 2005, and the following year his teams played the lead role in the disruption of al Qaeda's attempt to attack multiple airliners with bombs hidden in drinks bottles. 

He was later promoted to deputy director general of MI5 in 2007 before becoming head of the security service in 2013.

He retired from the post in April last year and in an interview that month said the pandemic could force ministers to 'adjust the dials' on public spending, potentially taking cash away from areas such as the intelligence agencies in the future.

But he insisted that MI5 was able to continue its work during the lockdown, adding that potential threats to the country were also subject to the restrictions. 

Baron Parker will head the Queen's working household and it will be his job to ensure the smooth running of all the different departments.

The post of Lord Chamberlain, which pays around £90,000 a year, is a part-time one and includes chairing regular meetings of all heads of department.

The Lord Chamberlain oversees all senior appointments in the household, is the channel of communication between the sovereign and the House of Lords and ensures co-ordination between Buckingham Palace and Clarence House.

The position dates from the Middle Ages, when the King's Chamberlain often acted as the king's spokesman in council and parliament.

On ceremonial occasions, the Lord Chamberlain carries a white staff and a gold key, the symbols of his office.  

The position also ensures co-ordination between Buckingham Palace and Clarence House.

During a ceremony held at Windsor Castle, the Queen accepted her former royal aide's wand and insignia of office.

Tuesday's engagement was also recorded in the Court Circular - a daily list of the events attended by the Queen and her family.

It said: 'The Earl Peel had an audience of The Queen today, delivered up his Wand and Insignia of Office as Lord Chamberlain and the Badge of Chancellor of the Royal Victorian Order and took leave upon relinquishing his appointment as Lord Chamberlain, when Her Majesty invested him with the Royal Victorian Chain.' 

The Queen recently conferred a prestigious honour on the Earl Peel, making him a Permanent Lord in Waiting. 

The Queen pictured alongside Earl Peel, 73, who had delayed his retirement amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis while the search for his successor took place (file photo)

It comes as the Armed Forces are stepping up preparations for the duke's funeral which will feature servicemen and women from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and RAF - alongside top military brass.

William Peel, great-great-grandson of founder of the modern Tory party  

William Peel, 3rd Earl Peel, is a great-great-grandson of Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, one of the founders of the modern Conservative party. 

The businessman served as a hereditary Tory peer from 1973 to 2006 when, on appointment to Lord Chamberlain, he became a crossbench member of the Lords. 

He attended Ampleforth College in Yorkshire before the University of Tours in France and the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester. 

He was a member of the Prince's Council, which advises the Duchy of Cornwall, from 1993 to 2006.  

Lord Peel was also a member of the Nature Conservancy Council, a since dissolved Government conservation agency, from 1991 to 1996. 

He married Veronica Thompson in 1973 and they had two children together before they divorced in 1987.

Two years later, Lord Peel married Charlotte Soames, daughter of Lord Soames and his wife, Mary Churchill, daughter of Sir Winston Churchill.

They have one child, Lady Antonia Peel, born in 1991. 

Soldiers from the Corps of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) are reportedly working to prepare the special Land Rover - that the duke helped design - which will carry his coffin on Saturday.

Lieutenant General Paul Jaques, who served with REME, said about the duke, his unit's former colonel-in-chief: 'He was engaged with us and used to visit us probably once or twice every single year since 1969.

'And he had an enormous passion for all things engineering. In his own words 'If it wasn't invented by God, it was invented by an engineer'.

It comes amid reports that the Queen may have to sit apart from family members at her husband's funeral - due to strict Covid rules.

Current guidelines mean anyone attending a funeral must stay at least two meters apart from those outside their household, except when in a support bubble.

However the Queen is not eligible to be in a support bubble, because she technically does not live on her own - and is supported by a team of royal aides dubbed 'HMS Bubble'.

As other members of the Royal Family are living in other royal residences, it means the Queen will likely have to sit at least two metres away from relatives at the funeral, according to the Telegraph. 

Royal sources confirmed to the paper that the Queen would be alone at the funeral service, unless a member of the Windsor bubble joins her. 

Meanwhile, the Queen will likely have to wear a mask at the funeral, while royals could be banned from singing hymns due to Covid restrictions, reports the Sun. 

Updated national guidance, issued by the Government, said communal singing should not go ahead at funerals to prevent the spread of Covid.

Choirs are still allowed, but members must be kept to as few as possible and should remain socially distanced. 

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said tonight: 'We have made it very clear that the service will be Covid compliant.' 

More details of the funeral, set to take place at George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on Saturday, are to be announced on Thursday.     

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