In previous times, there was a special plan for the Royal Family that they would have to follow in the event of a pandemic. They would have normally taken refuge on the Royal Yacht Britannia, off the north-west coast of Scotland, but the ship was decommissioned in 1997. So, instead, the Queen and Prince Philip have spent the duration of lockdown isolating in Windsor Castle, and have since decided to travel up to Balmoral – but it is far from business as usual this year.
Courtiers have spent the last month planning how the ‘new normal’ will work around the Queen, 94, and Duke of Edinburgh, 99.
But, the staff are so adamant on keeping the Queen safe that appropriate measures have been taken that she will not need to wear a mask.
Due to the very limited number of staff around her at Balmoral, which has been labelled ‘HMS Bubble’, neither the Queen or Duke of Edinburgh will need to wear one.
A Royal aide said: “Clearly, Her Majesty wanted to go to Balmoral, as normal, for August and September, but it was the practicalities and Government advice, of both England and Scotland, that had to be considered.
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“Once the rules changed, allowing travel and households to meet, it became a possibility.
“A small number of staff have travelled from Windsor to Balmoral, where effectively a new bubble has been created.
“Procedures are in place to mitigate any kind of risk. No one has to wear masks in the bubble, as they are deemed safe as one household.
“It’s not the normal Balmoral, but they will try and make it as normal and enjoyable as possible.”
And to enable the Queen to ride her beloved fell ponies, only one groom is allowed access to her horses.
The Prime Minister’s traditional visit has also been cancelled in what is believed to be the first time ever during her reign.
Shoots, which are usually a key element of the monarch’s Balmoral stay, are also in doubt this year.
The two popular Ghillies Balls, which are highlights of the summer season where a kilt-wearing Prince Charles often dances with his mother, have been cancelled.
An aide said: “There will still be barbecues, following the appropriate guidelines, walking, riding and fishing. Not that Prince Philip fishes any more, but it’s still very popular with other members of the family.
“Next week is the Glorious Twelfth (start of the shooting season) so the Queen will decide whether the shoots can go ahead, in line with the grouse numbers and advice from the estate staff.
“She no longer shoots, but enjoys the lunches – which will take place at any event.”
The Queen and Prince Philip appear to have arrived at Balmoral just in time this year.
Hours after they touched down, Aberdeen, which is just 50 miles from her estate near Ballater, was put into a local lockdown.