Prince Philip: The Queen returns to official duties four days after her husband's death

Monarch honours key member of royal household ahead of Duke of Edinburgh's funeral

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 13: People view the floral tributes to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh who died at age 99 at Buckingham Palace on April 13, 2021 in London, England. The Queen announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. HRH passed away peacefully April 9th at Windsor Castle. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)
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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II returned to royal duties on Tuesday, just four days after the death of her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

The 94-year-old monarch marked the retirement of her household's most senior official, the former Lord Chamberlain Earl Peel.

Her return to duties comes as preparations are under way for Philip's funeral at Windsor Castle, in south-east England, on Saturday.

The royal family and their households are observing two weeks of mourning, with members of the family "continuing to undertake engagements appropriate to the circumstances", an official said.

Mr Peel had overseen arrangements for the duke's funeral  before handing responsibility to his successor.

In overall charge is former MI5 spy chief Baron Parker, who took up his new role on April 1, following Mr Peel's retirement after more than 14 years in the post.

He had initially intended to step down last year, but stayed on to guide the monarchy through the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lord Chamberlain oversees all senior appointments in the household and is the channel of communication between the monarch and the House of Lords, the upper house of the UK's legislature.

During a ceremony at Windsor Castle, the queen accepted her former royal aide's wand and insignia of office.

The official engagement was recorded in the Court Circular – a daily list of the events attended by the queen and her family.

“The Earl Peel had an audience of The Queen today, delivered up his Wand and Insignia of Office as Lord Chamberlain and the Badge of Chancellor of the Royal Victorian Order and took leave upon relinquishing his appointment as Lord Chamberlain, when Her Majesty invested him with the Royal Victorian Chain,” it said.

The queen recently conferred a prestigious honour on Earl Peel, making him a Permanent Lord in Waiting.

2E5WHY6 File photo dated 22/05/13 of Queen Elizabeth II alongside the Lord Chamberlain, the Earl Peel, who has delayed his retirement because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, as part of security preparations, Thames Valley Police are carrying out searches around the town of Windsor, with officers examining phone boxes, post boxes, drains and bins as part of the operation.

A police official said they have put a range of visible and covert security measures in place for Saturday, when the duke is to be honoured with a ceremonial royal funeral in St George's Chapel.

The queen might have to sit alone during the service due to social distancing rules, The Telegraph reported.

She is staying at Windsor with a reduced number of about 22 staff.

The duke's long-standing close aide, his private secretary Brigadier Archie Miller Bakewell, will be one of the few, and possibly only, non-royals invited.

It is thought Philip’s funeral could attract one of the largest television audiences of the year.

The biggest TV audience so far in 2021 was the 25.1 million people who watched UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing a new lockdown for England on January 4, while 13.9 million tuned in for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's interview with US broadcaster Oprah Winfrey last month.

Broadcasters have yet to confirm their plans for Philip’s funeral, but the BBC and ITV are likely to devote several hours to the event, including the ceremony at 3pm.

The queen and Philip’s daughter, Princess Anne, made a public appearance on Wednesday, visiting young sailors at the Royal Yacht Squadron sailing club on the Isle of Wight off England’s south coast.

Britain's Princess Anne looks on at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, after Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth, died at the age of 99, in Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight, Britain April 14, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Since Philip’s death his four children have all paid him tribute, as have grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry.

Another grandchild, Princess Eugenie, paid tribute to her “dearest Grandpa” in an Instagram post on Wednesday. The younger daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York, shared memories of “learning how to cook, how to paint, what to read” with her grandfather.

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