The Queen is today carrying out her first public engagement outside of a royal residence in seven months, since before the coronavirus pandemic gripped the nation.
The 94-year-old monarch was joined by her grandson the Duke of Cambridge at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down near Salisbury to meet scientists providing vital support in the UK’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The royal pair were also being introduced to staff involved in the rapid response to the Novichok poisoning attack in Salisbury in 2018.
It is the first time the Queen has ventured from a royal residence, outside of her household of reduced staff – dubbed HMS Bubble – to carry out her duties as head of state since before lockdown.
Her Majesty flew to the site in a helicopter, while Prince William arrived by car.
The Queen knighted Captain Sir Tom Moore for his fundraising in July in the grounds of Windsor Castle, where she also watched a mini socially-distanced Trooping the Colour for her official birthday in June.
She spent lockdown at the Berkshire residence for her safety, but has been busy behind closed doors, carrying out telephone audiences, video calls and dealing with her red boxes of official papers.
The Queen donned a blush pink coat as she ventured out of her ‘HMS Bubble’ today, for a trip to the Energetics Analysis Centre at Porton Down science park near Salisbury
The 94-year-old monarch, wearing a Stewart Parvin old rose cashmere coat teamed with a matching hat by Rachel Trevor Morgan, was joined by her grandson the Duke of Cambridge
The Queen and Prince William saw displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and met staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident
The Duke of Cambridge asked questions about forensics work during the visit this morning
The 94-year-old unveiled a plaque to officially open the new Energetics Analysis Centre at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory
What happens at the top secret Porton Down laboratory?
The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down carries out military and scientific research, much of which is secret.
CHEMICAL WEAPONS: Since the 1950s the lab has been producing ‘very small quantities’ of chemical and biological agents
ANIMAL TESTING: Around 48,400 animals were blown up, gassed, or poisoned by the MoD at Porton Down between 2010 and 2017, according to official figures
Since 1916 over 20,000 volunteers have taken part in studies at Porton Down.
EXPERIMENTAL TEST DEATH: In 1953, Aircraftsman Ronald Maddison died following participation in a trial in which a number of small drops of the nerve agent sarin were applied to the forearm through two layers of cloth.
The pathologist’s report stated that he had died from asphyxia. The subsequent inquest into his death overturned the coroner’s original findings, recording a verdict of unlawful killing.
COLD WAR: During the cold war period between 1953 and 1976, a number of secret aerial release trials were carried out to help the government understand how a biological attack might spread across the UK
EBOLA: Dstl has an active research programme on Ebola.
COVID: In March scientists began tested a Covid vaccine, made at Oxford University, on animals at the Wiltshire base before trialling on humans.
WW2: During the Second World War, Porton Down scientists developed a biological weapon using anthrax spores
WEAPONS STORAGE: Dstl possesses the only licensed UK facility for the receipt, storage, breakdown and safe disposal of old chemical weapons. It currently has around 1,000 munitions in the process of being disposed of
Heightened safety precautions were taken ahead of the visit to protect the Queen against coronavirus.
All 48 people who were due to come into close contact with the monarch and the duke were tested for Covid-19 by Dstl.
Small groups of those taking part in the royal visit were arranged two metres apart for social distancing.
The Queen also arrived separately from William.
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: ‘Specific advice has been sought from the medical household and relevant parties, and all necessary precautions taken, working closely with Dstl.’
But the Salisbury engagement comes amid a resurgence of the virus, as the country battles a second wave and stricter restrictions for some areas.
The Queen, whose eldest son the Prince of Wales contracted a mild form of coronavirus, delivered two rare televised addresses to the nation just weeks apart during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She reassured the country that the virus would be overcome, telling those in isolation: ‘We will meet again.’
In another speech to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, she told how the message at the end of the war in Europe was ‘never give up, never despair’.
The Queen was last at an official public engagement outside of a royal residence when she joined the royal family for the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey on March 9.
It was the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s final public appearance before they quit as senior working royals for a new life in the US.
The monarch travelled to Balmoral for her private summer break and then spent a few weeks in Sandringham before returning to Windsor on October 6.
The Queen and William were greeted by Dstl’s chief executive Gary Aitkenhead for a tour of the Energetics Enclosure to see displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter-intelligence.
They were also shown the £30 million state-of-the-art Energetics Analysis Centre to meet counter-terrorism staff and see a demonstration of a forensic explosives investigation.
The pair then spoke to those involved in identifying the nerve agent following the Novichok incident, and those who worked on the decontamination clean-up operation.
As she signed the guest book she joked: ‘Well, it proves we’ve been here, doesn’t it?’
Russian intelligence has been accused of being behind the attempted nerve agent assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.
Dawn Sturgess and her partner Charlie Rowley fell ill in nearby Amesbury months after the attack, and Ms Sturgess later died after coming into contact with a perfume bottle believed to be linked to the case.
Military teams spent 13,000 hours on the clean-up. They took 5,000 test samples from across Salisbury and nearby Amesbury during the 355-day operation.
In recognition of their work, the duke was presenting the Army’s Headquarters South West with the Firmin Sword of Peace for going above and beyond their normal duties in the community.
Scientists at Porton Down laboratories are currently assessing rapid antigen tests as the UK remains in the grip of the pandemic.
Prince William and his grandmother signed a guest book and as she took her turn, the Queen joked: ‘Well, it proves we’ve been here, doesn’t it?
The pair spoke to those involved in identifying the nerve agent following the Novichok incident, and those who worked on the decontamination clean-up operation
They were treated to demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation with explosives detection dog, Max
The Queen, William and Dstl Chief Executive Gary Aitkenhead (right) viewed a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation with a model explosive device in a vehicle
The Queen and William were greeted by Dstl’s chief executive Gary Aitkenhead for a tour of the Energetics Enclosure to see displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter-intelligence
In March, human and animal trials for a British vaccine against the coronavirus began at the Government’s secret science base Porton Down.
Scientists started testing the drug, made at Oxford University, on animals at the Wiltshire base before trialling on humans.
In July, it was revealed that Number 10 maverick Dominic Cummings was touring highly secret military and security service sites, including Porton Down, amid claims he was determined to ‘sort out’ hapless procurement and organisation.
Public will NOT be able to mark Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph on monument’s 100th anniversary because of the coronavirus pandemic
Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph will be closed to the public amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it was announed today.
Crowds will not be allowed to go to the service on November 8 and will be asked to mark the day at home.
The usual Royal British Legion march past has also been cancelled over public health fears.
It is expected that members of the Royal Family and dignitaries will still attend to lay wreaths to remember the fallen
The legion had previously hoped to still be able to hold the service with the march, but with additional measures.
The Queen, seen wiping her eye at the service in London last year, will be able to attend
The Royal British Legion’s march will also no longer be able to take place at the monument
Some veterans will be invited to attend the service, which will be made Covid-secure.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘This Remembrance Sunday has a particular significance as it marks one hundred years since the Cenotaph was installed.
‘Whilst we will mark this occasion properly, it is with a heavy heart that I must ask people not to attend the ceremony at the Cenotaph this year in order to keep veterans and the public safe.
‘We will ensure our plans for the day are a fitting tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and that our veterans are at the heart of the service – with the nation able to watch safely from home.’
The Queen is said to have been determined to be at the service and said she would return ‘come hell or high water’.
The Cenotaph was guarded by police in June earlier this year and is celebrating 100 years
Political leaders including Boris Johnson and then Labour No 1 Jeremy Corbyn in 2019