Buckingham Palace press release suggests panic over Queen with Covid
The statement regarding Queen’s Covid diagnosis suggests there is panic behind closed doors at Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace has released a highly unusual statement on Her Majesty’s positive diagnosis suggesting the situation may be more difficult than they are letting on.
Authors of royal press releases are clearly not paid per word. Take the 61-word issue that came out after Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex appeared on global TV streams to blast the royal household last year or the 41-word doozy that was released in January to announce the (overdue) ouster of Prince Andrew from his remaining official posts.
On Monday, we have a 46-word statement, telling the world that two years into the pandemic, the 95-year-old Queen has Covid.
However, for a vast outfit that contains a well-oiled press office, this latest version is notable for all the wrong reasons.
The opening sentence reads: “Buckingham Palace confirms the Queen has today tested positive for Covid.”
He then goes on to assure the audience: “Her Majesty is experiencing mild symptoms of a cold.”
English teachers and sub-editors everywhere are grimacing at this mutilated abomination of language, which clearly misses a word in the opening sentence, needs a hyphen between “cold” and “like ” and has incorrect subject-verb agreement.
By contrast, browse through the wealth of other examples of official communication and it’s impossible to find even a single other example of the Palace’s communications team posting something with such glaring and basic errors.
It’s a very telling error that hardly indicates that cool heads are as calm about Her Majesty’s diagnosis as they seem to want to profess it. Regardless that just hours after this press release was issued the Queen also released a statement congratulating the UK curling teams on their wins at the Winter Olympics, it seems highly suspicious that the Covid announcement was wiped out and made public with a very disturbing, and very unusual, degree of haste.
Buckingham Palace staff members don’t seem to be particularly calm, though they are doing their best to try to carry on.
As it stands, their handling of questions about the health of the nonagenarian monarch has hardly inspired much confidence or faith as of late. Earlier this month, Prince Charles was diagnosed with Covid for the second time, only for his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, who later also returned a positive test result.
Immediately after Charles broke the news, questions swirled about Queen’s Covid status, given he had only seen his mother 48 hours earlier.
What followed were terse comments from the Palace saying they would only update the public when there was “something to talk about”. Palace sources even refused to confirm to the Telegraph “what [had] passed a test, let alone its result.
It all seemed very cautious and after the events of the last few months the question is, can we really trust the palace to be straight?
In October last year, the world was shocked when, days after Her Majesty appeared cheerful and cheerful at a reception at Windsor Castle for business leaders, the palace announced it was canceling a visit to Northern Ireland and that she had “reluctantly accepted medical treatment. advice to rest for the next few days”. The eyebrows of the royal watchers furrowed and the monarchists clutched their commemorative rags all the more.
Then the Queen was hospitalized for the first time in eight years, a fact the world learned not from a suitably restrained statement, but from The sun.
At the time, BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell took the unusual step of accusing the palace of failing to provide ‘the full picture’.
The fact that the Royal Standard continued to fly over Windsor Castle, even when Her Majesty was almost 40km away in London, only added to the feeling that aides had tried to cover things up.
Although a royal spokesperson confirmed the hospital visit, it was to say she had only undergone ‘preliminary enquiries’ and ‘remain in good spirits’, followed by a complete denial of ‘offer even the vaguest details of what might affect the usually indefatigable queen. .
It was a departure from the MO of the Palace in previous cases where the Queen had been ill, during which very broad information was usually released to manage public concern. For example, in 2013, the last time she ended up in a hospital bed, the palace revealed it was because Her Majesty “exhibited symptoms of gastroenteritis”. No one wants to think about the Queen’s vomiting, but the need for candor seemed to outweigh the need for dignity.
Of course, generally speaking, when it comes to the sovereign, balancing her very human need for privacy with her responsibilities as head of state is a delicate and delicate act. However, in October last year, Buckingham Palace’s refusal to provide any details about what might have affected the ‘Top Lady’ (as Diana, Princess of Wales called her mother-in-law) did not only fueling speculation that the situation could be riskier than anyone was letting on.
The most generous thing you could say about the handling of the situation was that it was awkward and unintentionally evasive.
So, what significance can we attach to what the palace is telling us now?
All the reports currently coming out of London point to the fact that there has been an outbreak of cases inside the walls of Windsor Castle, thus very conveniently redirecting any potential blame away from Charles. Given the recent shape of the palace on this front, do we buy it?
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the Queen has been firmly entrenched in what is called the HMS Bubble, a very carefully calibrated protective mechanism that saw only a small coterie of trusted staff working in rotation to ensure the safety of Her Majesty and Prince Philip. This system has worked perfectly so far and until Charles contracted the virus. Curious, right?
This whole situation highlights what will only become a more pressing and painful headache for the Royal Household, namely how to handle the news regarding Her Majesty’s health.
Last week, the Queen met senior army officers at Windsor Castle with video taken showing her telling them bluntly: “I can’t move”. Not only that, in the brief clip, the great-grandmother somehow looks shorter and curvier. It is clear that time passes and that even crowned heads of state do not escape the inevitable ravages of age.
In the years to come (and yes, I hope Her Majesty still has some left in her) this question of how the Palace disseminates information about the Queen’s welfare will only become more acute and delicate.
Public trust and faith in the Royal Family is under threat at a time when support for the whole box and golden dice has been sorely tested again and again. (Looking at you, Prince Andrew and Prince Harry.)
With the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year officially kicking off earlier this month,
Buckingham Palace may be staunchly determined to project the image of a united royal family happily carrying on with their work – but that light-hearted optimism increasingly seems to fly in the face of cold harsh reality.
Darkening and opacity just won’t do.
Hopefully the queen will be right in the rain in no time. That and someone at Buckingham Palace is learning to use the spell checker. With Britain and the world’s eyes on them, they just can’t afford to stuff it all up.
Daniela Elser is a royal pundit and writer with over 15 years of experience working with a number of top media titles in Australia.