The Queen has been pictured riding in the grounds of Windsor Castle – her first public appearance since the coronavirus lockdown began.
The 94-year-old monarch left Buckingham Palace for Windsor Castle on March 19, as the pandemic really began to hit Britain, and has not been seen in public since.
Windsor is said to be the Queen’s favourite royal residence and at the weekend she was photographed riding one of her ponies, a 14-year-old Fell Pony called Balmoral Fern, in the grounds.
The monarch regularly rides in the grounds of Windsor and has been a passionate horse lover and breeder of thoroughbred racehorses throughout her reign.
The pictures show the Queen wearing a colourful headscarf and smartly dressed in a tweed jacket, jodhpurs, white gloves and boots. She is enjoying the sunny weather that has been a contrast to the sombre mood throughout much of Britain’s COVID-19 lockdown.
The Queen last carried out official duties on March 18, the day before she left London. In the same week, she held her regular audience with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the phone rather than face to face as usual.
She has made two televised addresses to Britain during the lockdown. The first was a speech to reassure the country that the coronavirus would be overcome and those in isolation “will meet again”, followed by another on a similar theme to mark VE Day.
She has been joined by the Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle and it is likely a small group of household staff have been isolating with her.
The Queen’s re-emergence comes as Britain eases its stringent 10-week coronavirus lockdown, despite concerns among from experts that its infection rate is still too high.
Britain has one of the world’s highest death rates from COVID-19. The government said it was easing measures cautiously to balance the need to restart the economy while also trying to prevent another increase in infections.
“We are confident that this is the right step to be taking at this moment in time,” Foreign Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News on Sunday (British time).
“We are taking those steps very carefully, based on the science but also based on our ability now to monitor the virus.”
From Monday, up to six people will be able to meet outside in England, some school classes will restart, elite competitive sport can resume without spectators and more than 2 million people who have been “shielding” will be allowed to spend time outdoors.
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jenny Harries, emphasised the need for people to remain on their guard.
“This is a really, really critical time. So where we are seeing [that] government is easing measures, the public really, really need to stick to those measures,” she said.
Britain’s death toll from people who have tested positive for COVID-19 rose by 113 to 38,489, the government said on Sunday.