Why There Were No Photos on the Queen's Desk During Her Televised Address

An insider said Her Majesty did not want "any speculation about relationships within the royal family."

Queen Elizabeth made a rare televised address that aired on Sunday to thank the National Health Service (NHS) workers for their heroic efforts fighting the spread of the coronavirus (which has taken nearly 5,000 lives in the U.K. thus far) and to acknowledge the dramatic changes in everyone's lives since the outbreak began. The Queen's brief but reassuring message emphasized the need for the country to come together and she encouraged her subjects to do what the British people do best: Keep calm and carry on.

More than 22 million people tuned in to watch the Queen's inspirational message, pre-taped at Windsor Castle last week. But eagle-eyed royal watchers caught a significant omission from Her Majesty's surroundings. During her annual televised Christmas addresses, the Queen is always surrounded by a selection of family photos that change year to year. But this time, there were no family photos in sight.

"The Queen did not want to distract from her message of thanks and encouragement," a Palace insider told me. "This is a time that calls for national unity. She wanted to keep the focus squarely on what she was saying and not set off any speculation about relationships within the royal family."

Eyebrows were raised during the Queen's last Christmas address when photos of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were missing from Her Majesty's desk. Photos of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William and Kate Middleton with their children Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis as well as photos of Prince Philip and her father, King George VI, were all prominently displayed.

For the coronavirus address, which was only the fifth time the Queen has delivered special televised remarks during her 67-year reign, there was only a silver box, blotter, and a small pot of red roses on her desk. "That was very much intentional," said my source.

Last month, I reported that the Queen, who turns 94 this month, was asked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to address the nation to offer "calm and comfort." Johnson, who is fighting the virus, was taken to the hospital yesterday.

The Queen's remarks were written in her own words and were "deeply personal," said the insider. Her Majesty has been self-isolating at Windsor Castle since last month with Prince Philip after it was revealed a staffer at Buckingham Palace had tested positive for COVID-19.

Prince Charles, currently in Scotland with Camilla, has also been fighting the virus. Last week, he taped a video message to say he was "one of the lucky ones to have COVID-19 relatively mildly," but he acknowledged other people who contract the virus are dealing with a much more severe situation.

While the Queen did not mention her family's own battles with the virus, she did draw comparisons to the public's suffering and sacrifice at this time with her wartime experience in 1940, when she and her sister, Princess Margaret, were separated from their parents during World War II. The princesses were taken to Windsor for safety reasons while their parents stayed in London as a show of support to British citizens battling the Blitz.

During the address, Her Majesty wore a simple kelly green dress to signal "rebirth and hope," said my source, with her signature strand of pearls and a rarely seen turquoise and diamond brooch that once belonged to Queen Mary. "Her Majesty was very much aware of the mood of the nation and wanted to be a calming and consistent presence amidst all the upheaval and sadness," the insider said.

Her Majesty closed her remarks saying, "We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again," she said. "But for now, I send my thanks and warmest good wishes to you all." And for more on the royals and COVID-19, check out Prince Charles' Coronavirus Diagnosis Has William and Harry Reconciling.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.


Filed Under