Queen makes first engagement to mark Centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force
The Queen stepped out in bright sunshine today for her first official royal engagement for five months, to mark the centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force.
The 94-year-old monarch is at the Commonwealth Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede, Surrey, for her first in-person engagement since last October, when she visited the Defence Laboratory at Porton Down alongside her grandson Prince William.
The Queen wore a spring-inspired ensemble for the occasion, donning a green coat and matching hat, adorned with faux daffodils and orchids – but shunned a face covering.
She joked: ‘It’s a very long time since I’ve been here,’ as she arrived at the memorial – which she had opened in her coronation year, on October 17, 1953.
While she has been seen in video calls this year, today is the first time the Monarch has been seen in public since December, when she welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge back to Windsor after their whistle-stop tour of Britain.
Today’s event comes as her 99-year-old husband Prince Philip recovers at home after undergoing heart surgery at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London earlier this month.
Today also marks the first anniversary of ‘Megxit’ – when the Queen’s grandson Harry and former Suits actress Meghan Markle stepped down from royal duties and stopped using their HRH styles, on March 31 last year.
The visit also comes amid a tumultuous time for the family, in the wake of the Sussexes’ two-hour televised sit-down with Oprah Winfrey at the start of this month which left the royal family facing one of its worst crises for generations.
The Queen issued a statement after the interview, saying that the issues raised – including accusations of racism in their explosive Oprah interview – would be dealt with privately as a family, but that ‘some recollections may vary’.
The Queen wore a spring-inspired ensemble for the occasion, donning a green coat and matching hat, adorned with faux daffodils and orchids
She said: ‘It’s a very long time since I’ve been here,’ as she arrived at the memorial – which she had opened on October 17, 1953.
While she has been seen in video calls this year, today is the first time the Monarch has been seen in public since December.
The Queen opened the memorial at Runnymeade in her coronation year, 1953
Her Majesty was pictured leaving Windsor this morning, en route to the War Memorial at Runnymede
Her Majesty was last seen out in public last December, when she welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge back to Windsor after their whistle-stop tour of Britain. Pictured, the Queen leaving her home this morning
Last night, the Queen sent box of daffodils on behalf of herself and the Royal Household, to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London.
The annual gift is sent by the Queen to NHS hospitals as a thank you to staff and to cheer up patients.
The hospital tweeted: ‘Reverend Chris van D’Arque and team took delivery of the flowers, which will be appreciated by patients and staff!’
The CWGC Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede was opened by Her Majesty on October 17, 1953.
Her Majesty was greeted by Claire Horton, Director General, Commonwealth War Grave Commission, and The Honourable George Brandis, High Commissioner for Australia.
The Queen, who is also Australia’s Head of State, is there to attend a service to mark the milestone 100th anniversary of the service.
Her Majesty’s Equerry Major Tom White, a hero of the Afghanistan conflict where he was involved in a battle with the Taliban in 2009, laid a wreath on her behalf.
Following the service the Queen viewed panels bearing the names of Australian war dead and a display of fallen airmen and women in the memorial cloister, before meeting serving RAAF personnel.
It was her first public engagement where she interacted with people outside of a royal residence since October, when she joined the Duke of Cambridge for the visit to Porton Down, to meet Scientists at the Defence Science Laboratory.
She was joined by Prince William at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down near Salisbury to meet scientists who worked in the aftermath of the 2018 Novichok attack, and are supporting the UK’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Her Majesty, who has been in lockdown in Windsor Castle but has been carrying out engagements remotely, did some filming and an audio recording for Commonwealth Day earlier this month.
Last night, the Queen sent box of daffodils on behalf of herself and the Royal Household, to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London. The annual gift is sent by the Queen to NHS hospitals as a thank you to staff and to cheer up patients
Today, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) commemorates 100 years of service to Australia.
More than 350,000 men and women have served in the RAAF over the past 100 years, with over 11,100 losing their lives in service.
The event at Runnymede is the beginning of a number of planned centenary events and initiatives in the UK, which complement events that will take place across Australia.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) commemorates the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two World Wars.
It also holds and updates an extensive and accessible records archive. The Commission operates in more than 23,000 locations in more than 150 countries.
More than 1,300 of those commemorated at Runnymede served with the Royal Australian Air Force.
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