The Queen May Never Be Able to Return to Public Duty Because of the Coronavirus

The Queen may have to permanently step back from public duty because of the ongoing dangers of the coronavirus.

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(Image credit: ADRIAN DENNIS)
  • The coronavirus pandemic has forced the Queen (opens in new tab) to cancel or postpone her planned public appearances through the end of summer.
  • Royal biographer and expert Andrew Morton (opens in new tab) thinks the ongoing dangers associated with the virus might necessitate a more permanent step back from public duties for the 94-year-old monarch.
  • He predicts that Prince Charles, who has already had the coronavirus and may have immunity from future infection, will step up and take on a more active role in the royal family's day-to-day operations.

The coronavirus pandemic (opens in new tab) has put life on pause for millions of people around the world—including Queen Elizabeth II (opens in new tab).

The 94-year-old monarch is currently in lockdown in Windsor Castle (opens in new tab) as a precautionary measure and plans to remain that way until at least this fall. According to The Sun (opens in new tab), this will mark the Queen's longest break from public duties ever during her 68-year reign.

Experts think the Queen's absence from royal duties could extend well beyond the fall—and some even say the ongoing risk of exposure to the coronavirus could force her to step back permanently.

"It’s terribly sad but I can’t see how the Queen can resume her usual job," royal biographer Andrew Morton said, according to The Sun (opens in new tab). "The Covid-19 virus isn’t going away soon and will be with us for months, if not years. It would be far too risky for the Queen to start meeting people on a regular basis."

Of course, anyone familiar with the Queen's killer work ethic (opens in new tab) knows how devastating this would be for her.

"She has always loved getting out and meeting people but she can’t take the risk," Morton added. "How can she carry out investitures, meet ambassadors, do walkabouts and visit places without meeting people at close range? If she gets the bug, it could be fatal and would put Prince Philip at risk."

Morton says the pandemic could prompt the Queen (opens in new tab) to pass day-to-day responsibility for the royal family to her oldest son, Prince Charles.

"Prince Charles is, of course, over 70 himself but he has had the virus and probably has immunity now," Morton explained, adding that he still sees the Queen as playing a public role, even if it's in a virtual capacity. "We will have a Zoom monarchy, she will be Her Majesty the screen."

In many ways, Morton notes, the changes necessitated by the coronavirus (opens in new tab) would actually mark a return to the royal family's more traditional way of interacting with the public.

"The touchy-feely way of doing things created by Princess Diana has been stopped in its tracks," he said. "We will be back to the days of white gloves and distancing, which makes the royals more remote."

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Kayleigh Roberts is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional experience. Her byline has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Allure, Entertainment Weekly, MTV, Bustle, Refinery29, Girls’ Life Magazine, Just Jared, and Tiger Beat, among other publications. She's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.