Queen holds weekly telephone audience with Boris Johnson despite catching Covid

Monarch had cancelled royal duties following positive Covid test

Andy Gregory
Wednesday 23 February 2022 20:37 GMT
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Queen tests positive for Covid 19

The Queen has held her weekly telephone audience with Boris Johnson despite having contracted coronavirus, Buckingham Palace has said.

The 95-year-old monarch had cancelled all of her virtual engagements on Tuesday as she continued to suffer from mild cold-like symptoms, after testing positive for Covid-19 on Sunday.

But a palace spokesman said on Wednesday: “Her Majesty did speak to the prime minister this evening.”

The Queen’s advanced age, Covid diagnosis, and recent health scare – which saw her spend three months resting, on doctors’ orders – mean her medical team will currently be keeping a close eye on her progress.

But being well enough to speak to the prime minister will likely be taken as an encouraging sign.

The Queen speaking to Mr Johnson from Windsor Castle in 2020 during the pandemic (Buckingham Palace/PA)
The Queen speaking to Mr Johnson from Windsor Castle in 2020 during the pandemic (Buckingham Palace/PA) (PA Media)

In the autumn, she pulled out of attending the Cop26 climate change summit, the Festival of Remembrance and then the Remembrance Sunday Cenotaph service due to a sprained back.

The Queen now regularly uses a walking stick and has been pictured looking frailer recently, which she herself appeared to acknowledge last week when she remarked during a Windsor Castle audience: “Well, as you can see, I can't move.”

The head of state faces a major engagement next Wednesday, when she is due to host the annual Diplomatic Reception and meet hundreds of dignitaries at Windsor.

She is also due to attend Westminster Abbey for the Commonwealth Service on 14 March, followed by her late husband Prince Philip’s memorial service at the end of the month.

As the nation’s longest-reigning monarch, she has held weekly audiences with 13 British prime ministers prior to Mr Johnson.

The Queen welcoming Boris Johnson during an audience where she inviting him to become prime minister, on 24 July 2019
The Queen welcoming Boris Johnson during an audience where she inviting him to become prime minister, on 24 July 2019 (Victoria Jones - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

“They unburden themselves or tell me what is going on or if they have any problems, and sometimes I can help in some way as well,” the Queen said of her weekly audiences during a 1992 documentary marking her 40th year on the throne.

“They know I can be impartial and it is rather nice to feel one is a sponge. Occasionally one can put one's point of view and perhaps they have not seen it from that angle.”

There will have been much for her and Mr Johnson to discuss this week, with the government seeking to navigate the escalating crisis in Ukraine and the prime minister remaining embroiled in his own domestic turmoil as a result of the Partygate scandal.

The pair have held their weekly audiences – which follow Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons – by telephone for much of the pandemic.

This is despite claims from Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s former chief political aide-turned-nemesis, that he had to convince the prime minister not to try to continue visiting the monarch in person at the outset of the pandemic.

In a claim denied by No 10, Mr Cummings told the BBC last July: “I just said if you, if you give her coronavirus and she dies what, what are you gonna, you can’t do that, you can’t risk that, that’s completely insane.

“And he said, he basically just hadn’t thought it through, he said, yeah, holy s***, I can’t go.”

Ultimately the pair switched to phone conversations on 18 March 2020 as she prepared to socially distance at Windsor. Their next in-person meeting was not until 15 months later in June 2021.

Additional reporting by PA

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