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Queen appears in person to mark Royal Australian Air Force centenary in Surrey


The Queen beamed as she stepped out for her first official royal engagement in five months today, while her 99-year-old husband continues to recover from heart surgery.  

The 94-year-old monarch visited the Commonwealth Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede, Surrey, to mark the centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force. 

While she has been seen in video calls this year, today is the first time the Monarch has been seen in public since December, when she welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge back to Windsor after their whistle-stop tour of Britain. 

It was her first in-person official engagement of 2021 – and the first since last October, when she visited the Defence Laboratory at Porton Down alongside her grandson Prince William.  

It is also the first time she has been seen since Harry and Meghan’s bombshell Oprah interview. 

The Queen, who had her Covid vaccine in January, did not wear a face covering. She was a picture of happiness in a bright spring-inspired ensemble; donning an ivory Angela Kelly dress, green coat and matching hat, adorned with faux daffodils and orchids and the Australian wattle brooch presented to her on her first tour of the country in 1954.

She joked: ‘It’s a very long time since I’ve been here,’ as she arrived at the memorial – which she had opened in her coronation year, on October 17, 1953.  

The event comes as her husband Prince Philip recovers at home after undergoing heart surgery at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London earlier this month.  

Today also marks the first anniversary of ‘Megxit’ – when the Queen’s grandson Harry and former Suits actress Meghan Markle stepped down from royal duties and stopped using their HRH styles, on March 31 last year. 

The visit comes amid a tumultuous time for the family, in the wake of the Sussexes’ televised sit-down with Oprah Winfrey at the start of this month which left the royal family facing one of its worst crises for generations. 

The Queen issued a statement afterwards, saying that the issues raised – including accusations of racism in their explosive interview – would be dealt with privately as a family, but that ‘some recollections may vary’. 

The Queen was in good spirits as she arrived at the CWGC Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede, Surrey

The Queen's equerry Major Tom White laid a wreath on her behalf in honour of fallen airmen and women

The Queen’s equerry Major Tom White laid a wreath on her behalf in honour of fallen airmen and women

The 94-year-old viewed panels bearing the names of Australian war dead and a display of fallen airmen and women in the memorial cloister, before meeting serving RAAF personnel

The 94-year-old viewed panels bearing the names of Australian war dead and a display of fallen airmen and women in the memorial cloister, before meeting serving RAAF personnel

When the Queen arrived at Runnymede she was greeted by Claire Horton, director general of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and George Brandis, High Commissioner for Australia

When the Queen arrived at Runnymede she was greeted by Claire Horton, director general of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and George Brandis, High Commissioner for Australia

Service personnel at the event looked delighted to have Her Majesty in their company, as she happily chatted to them all ahead of the service

Service personnel at the event looked delighted to have Her Majesty in their company, as she happily chatted to them all ahead of the service

Service personnel at the event looked delighted to have Her Majesty in their company, as she happily chatted to them all ahead of the service 

She chatted to the Honourable George Brandis (left), High Commissioner for Australia

She chatted to the Honourable George Brandis (left), High Commissioner for Australia

The Queen opening the memorial at Runnymeade in Surrey in October 1953

The Queen today, March 2021

Left, The Queen opening the memorial at Runnymeade in Surrey in October 1953. Right, the Queen today, March 2021

The monarch was animated at the display today, cheerily greeting fellow guests and enjoying the Red Arrows fly past

The monarch was animated at the display today, cheerily greeting fellow guests and enjoying the Red Arrows fly past 

The Monarch was all smiles as she happily chatted to service personnel at the event, her first public outing this year

The Monarch was all smiles as she happily chatted to service personnel at the event, her first public outing this year  

Prayers were said for Royal Australian Air Force servicemen and women who have lost their lives in service of their country

The Queen bowed her head as prayers were said for Royal Australian Air Force servicemen and women who have lost their lives in service of their country

The Queen bowed her head as prayers were said for Royal Australian Air Force servicemen and women who have lost their lives in service of their country

The 94-year-old clutched a programme of the day's events as she made her way around the memorial in Runnymede, Surrey

The 94-year-old clutched a programme of the day’s events as she made her way around the memorial in Runnymede, Surrey 

The Queen at the memorial, which commemorates more than 20,000 Commonwealth airmen and women who died during operations in north and west Europe and have no known grave

The Queen at the memorial, which commemorates more than 20,000 Commonwealth airmen and women who died during operations in north and west Europe and have no known grave

She joked: 'It's a very long time since I've been here,' as she arrived at the memorial - which she had opened in her coronation year, on October 17, 1953 (pictured here)

She joked: ‘It’s a very long time since I’ve been here,’ as she arrived at the memorial – which she had opened in her coronation year, on October 17, 1953 (pictured here)

More than 350,000 men and women have served in the RAAF since its formation in 1921, fighting in conflicts ranging from the Second World War to others in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan and Iraq, with more than 11,100 losing their lives in service

More than 350,000 men and women have served in the RAAF since its formation in 1921, fighting in conflicts ranging from the Second World War to others in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan and Iraq, with more than 11,100 losing their lives in service 

After spending the morning chatting with members of the Australian Air Force and taking part in centenary celebrations, the Queen made her way back to Windsor Castle

After spending the morning chatting with members of the Australian Air Force and taking part in centenary celebrations, the Queen made her way back to Windsor Castle 

The ceremony began with a flypast by the Red Arrows, but with white smoke only instead of the familiar red, white and blue. As they do not normally perform at this time of year, their smoke pods are in for maintenance

The ceremony began with a flypast by the Red Arrows, but with white smoke only instead of the familiar red, white and blue. As they do not normally perform at this time of year, their smoke pods are in for maintenance 

Her Majesty was pictured leaving Windsor this morning, en route to the War Memorial at Runnymede

Her Majesty was pictured leaving Windsor this morning, en route to the War Memorial at Runnymede

Generations of Royal Australian Air Force members (pictured with the Queen in 1953), have provided outstanding service to Australia in conflicts including WWII, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq

Generations of Royal Australian Air Force members (pictured with the Queen in 1953), have provided outstanding service to Australia in conflicts including WWII, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq

When the Queen arrived at Runnymede she was greeted by Claire Horton, director general of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and George Brandis, High Commissioner for Australia.

The ceremony began with a flypast by the Red Arrows, but with white smoke only instead of the familiar red, white and blue. As they do not normally perform at this time of year, their smoke pods are in for maintenance. 

Prayers were then said for Royal Australian Air Force servicemen and women who have lost their lives in service of their country before Her Majesty’s Equerry Major Tom White laid a wreath on her behalf. 

It bore a note reading, ‘In memory of the glorious dead, Elizabeth.’ 

She said to one member of the Royal Australian Air Force who’d recently been posted to the UK: ‘It’s rather bad luck to have arrived in lockdown isn’t it? 

‘I hope in the next couple of years you’ll be able to travel a bit more’. 

As she arrived at the memorial, which she opened in 1953, the Queen remarked on how long it was since she had last been there. 

She added: ‘You’ve got a good day for it. It’s a very windy spot normally.’ 

The Duke of Edinburgh, 99, was admitted to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London on February 17 after feeling unwell.

He underwent surgery for a pre-existing heart condition – three months before his 100th birthday – before returning to King Edward VII hospital.

The couple – who had their first Covid vaccine in January – have spent the pandemic in lockdown at Windsor Castle with a team of staff dubbed ‘HMS Bubble.’ 

It is not known if the pair have had their second jabs. 

Today the Queen was also given the promise of a present, to be delivered later when they have been made: two RAAF dog jackets for her new corgis. 

‘That’s very kind,’ she said. ‘I look forward to it.’ 

HMQ wrote in a foreword to the order of service: ‘As one of the oldest Air Forces in the world, it is fitting to pay tribute to the efficiency, skill and sacrifice of the men and women who have served in its ranks, in Australia and overseas, during the past one hundred years.’ 

More than 350,000 men and women have served in the RAAF since its formation in 1921, fighting in conflicts ranging from the Second World War to others in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan and Iraq, with more than 11,100 losing their lives in service. 

Today the Queen was also given the promise of a present, to be delivered later when they have been made: two RAAF dog jackets for her new corgis. 'That's very kind,' she said. 'I look forward to it.'

Today the Queen was also given the promise of a present, to be delivered later when they have been made: two RAAF dog jackets for her new corgis. ‘That’s very kind,’ she said. ‘I look forward to it.’

‘Are they chasing Russians?’ Queen probes pilots about RAF jets 

The Queen was in typically good spirits today as she laughed and joked with fellow attendees – and even asked an RAAF officer working with Typhoon jets if they were ‘being sent off to chase the Russians?’ 

According to ITV’s royal correspondent Chris Ship, Her Majesty asked another air force personnel about working with Typhoon jets in Northumberland.

The Queen asked: ‘Are they being sent off to chase the Russians?’

He replied: ‘That’s correct ma’am, it’s a lot of fun for us!’ 

The Queen responded simply, ‘Hmm’

The Queen pinned a broach to her coat and teamed pearl earrings with a matching necklace

The Queen pinned a broach to her coat and teamed pearl earrings with a matching necklace 

A radiant Queen conducts her first engagement outside of Windsor Castle this year.

A radiant Queen conducts her first engagement outside of Windsor Castle this year.

A radiant Queen conducts her first engagement outside of Windsor Castle this year

The Queen, who had her first Covid vaccination in January, did not wear a mask at the event today

The Queen, who had her first Covid vaccination in January, did not wear a mask at the event today 

Good to be back: Her Majesty was all smiles at the centenary event today, paying tribute to Australian air force personnel

Good to be back: Her Majesty was all smiles at the centenary event today, paying tribute to Australian air force personnel

Good to be back: Her Majesty was all smiles at the centenary event today, paying tribute to Australian air force personnel 

The Queen opened the memorial at Runnymeade in her coronation year, 1953

The Queen opened the memorial at Runnymeade in her coronation year, 1953

The event is the head of state's first public engagement outside Windsor Castle this year and is being held at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The event is the head of state’s first public engagement outside Windsor Castle this year and is being held at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Since the pandemic began the Queen has carried out a handful of official events beyond the walls of Windsor Castle.

Since the pandemic began the Queen has carried out a handful of official events beyond the walls of Windsor Castle.

Her Majesty was last seen out in public last December, when she welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge back to Windsor after their whistle-stop tour of Britain. Pictured, the Queen leaving her home this morning

Her Majesty was last seen out in public last December, when she welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge back to Windsor after their whistle-stop tour of Britain. Pictured, the Queen leaving her home this morning

The Queen smiled and joked with members of the Australian Air Force during her visit this morning

The Queen smiled and joked with members of the Australian Air Force during her visit this morning

She said: 'It's a very long time since I've been here,' as she arrived at the memorial - which she had opened on October 17, 1953.

She said: ‘It’s a very long time since I’ve been here,’ as she arrived at the memorial – which she had opened on October 17, 1953.

While she has been seen in video calls this year, today is the first time the Monarch has been seen in public since December.

While she has been seen in video calls this year, today is the first time the Monarch has been seen in public since December.

The Queen donned a pair of black gloves and clutched a programme as she watched the flypast

The Queen donned a pair of black gloves and clutched a programme as she watched the flypast

The Queen donned a pair of black gloves and clutched a programme as she watched the flypast 

The Queen said to one member of the Royal Australian Air Force who'd recently been posted to the UK: 'It's rather bad luck to have arrived in lockdown isn't it. I hope in the next couple of years you'll be able to travel a bit more'.

The Queen said to one member of the Royal Australian Air Force who’d recently been posted to the UK: ‘It’s rather bad luck to have arrived in lockdown isn’t it. I hope in the next couple of years you’ll be able to travel a bit more’.

The Queen wore a spring-inspired ensemble for the occasion, donning a green coat and matching hat, adorned with faux daffodils and orchids

The Queen wore a spring-inspired ensemble for the occasion, donning a green coat and matching hat, adorned with faux daffodils and orchids

The visit also comes amid a tumultuous time for the family, in the wake of the Sussexes' two-hour televised sit-down with Oprah Winfrey at the start of this month which left the royal family facing one of its worst crises for generations

The visit also comes amid a tumultuous time for the family, in the wake of the Sussexes' two-hour televised sit-down with Oprah Winfrey at the start of this month which left the royal family facing one of its worst crises for generations

The visit also comes amid a tumultuous time for the family, in the wake of the Sussexes’ two-hour televised sit-down with Oprah Winfrey at the start of this month which left the royal family facing one of its worst crises for generations

Last night, the Queen sent box of daffodils on behalf of herself and the Royal Household, to St George's Hospital in Tooting, London. The annual gift is sent by the Queen to NHS hospitals as a thank you to staff and to cheer up patients

Last night, the Queen sent box of daffodils on behalf of herself and the Royal Household, to St George's Hospital in Tooting, London. The annual gift is sent by the Queen to NHS hospitals as a thank you to staff and to cheer up patients

Last night, the Queen sent box of daffodils on behalf of herself and the Royal Household, to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London. The annual gift is sent by the Queen to NHS hospitals as a thank you to staff and to cheer up patients

The Duke of Cambridge will also mark the centenary with a video message being released later on Wednesday that reflects on the service, courage and sacrifice made by generations of Royal Australian Air Force men and women.

The message will be played at the RAAF centenary dinner being held in the Australian capital Canberra with guests featuring the country’s prime minister Scott Morrison and the governor-general, retired General David Hurley, who is the Queen’s representative.

Since the pandemic began the Queen has carried out a handful of official events beyond the walls of Windsor Castle.

She was last seen outside her Berkshire residence in November during the annual Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph and, a few days before that, wore a face mask in public for the first time during a poignant visit to the grave of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey to mark the centenary of his burial. 

In October the Queen joined by her grandson the Duke of Cambridge when she visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down in Wiltshire and formally opened the Energetics Analysis Centre.

The Queen has been carrying out her duties as head of state throughout the pandemic and has taken part in a number of memorable virtual royal engagements via video call, including one where she encouraged those who were hesitant to have the vaccine to ‘think about other people rather than themselves’.

A number of high-profile events have been staged in the grounds of Windsor Castle including a ceremony last summer where the Queen knighted veteran NHS fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore. 

Last night, the Queen sent box of daffodils on behalf of herself and the Royal Household, to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London. 

The annual gift is sent by the Queen to NHS hospitals as a thank you to staff and to cheer up patients.

The hospital tweeted: ‘Reverend Chris van D’Arque and team took delivery of the flowers, which will be appreciated by patients and staff!’ 



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