LONDON — After being cloistered away from the public for long stretches of the pandemic, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II tested positive for the coronavirus and was experiencing “mild cold like symptoms,” Buckingham Palace announced in a statement on Sunday.
Her son and heir, Prince Charles, tested positive for the virus and went into isolation 10 days earlier, after being at Windsor with the queen. Charles’s wife, Camilla, has since had a positive test as well.
Though the palace tweeted a message from the queen congratulating the British women’s and men’s curling teams for their Olympic medals, it did not release any further information about her health on Sunday. It does not normally comment on medical matters involving the monarch — a custom dating back to when Britain’s kings and queens were worried about showing vulnerabilities to their rivals.
In January 2021, the palace did reveal that Elizabeth had received her first dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Many royal watchers assume she has had a full complement of shots. Charles and Camilla have each had two initial jabs and a booster, according to their office at Clarence House, which has been more open about health matters.
Under the current rules in England, the queen is supposed to isolate for at least five days. But the British government plans to lift restrictions this week.
Within minutes of the palace’s announcement, messages of support for the monarch poured in.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted, “I’m sure I speak for everyone in wishing Her Majesty The Queen a swift recovery from Covid and a rapid return to vibrant good health.”
Leader of the opposition Labour Party Keir Starmer wished the queen “good health and a speedy recovery. Get well soon, Ma’am.”
“The commitment Her Majesty the Queen has shown to our country continues to be unwavering,” tweeted London Mayor Sadiq Khan, as he wished her a “swift and safe recovery.”
There was less panic than there might have been earlier in the pandemic.
When Johnson tested positive in March 2020, Downing Street prompted anger by emphasizing that he was in good spirits and continuing to work — until he was rushed to the hospital. Britons only learned from him afterward how serious his case was, that nursing staff had sat by his bedside throughout the night, not sure if he would make it.
At this point, many leaders in Europe and around the world have had the virus — and survived, with the help of vaccines and treatments. Indeed, Charles has had it twice.
Still, there has been widespread concern about the health of the queen, a symbol of stability who is this year celebrating 70 years on the throne.
A combination of health issues and coronavirus restrictions has kept her mostly away from public engagements for the past five months.
In the latest video clips and photographs, taken at Windsor Castle and the Sandringham Estate, she can be seen walking with the aid of a cane.
She has missed high-profile events, including a Remembrance Sunday service to honor the country’s war dead, a staple on the royal calendar and the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
She has continued to receive ambassadors and dignitaries but mostly virtually.
She did have an in-person engagement this past week, though. On Wednesday, she met at Windsor with the outgoing defense services secretary, Royal Navy Rear Admiral James Macleod, and his successor, Major General Eldon Millar. She could be heard responding to a question about her well-being. The monarch pointed to her leg or her cane and quipped, “Well, as you can see, I can’t move.”
Today at Windsor Castle, Rear Admiral James Macleod was received by The Queen upon relinquishing his appointment as Defence Services Secretary.— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) February 16, 2022
Her Majesty also received Major General Eldon Millar as he takes up the role as the new Defence Services Secretary. pic.twitter.com/8QQ064VzCP
The queen is also scheduled to attend several events in March, including a diplomatic reception at Windsor Castle on March 2 and the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on March 14. A “service of thanksgiving” for her late husband, Prince Philip, is scheduled for March 29 at Westminster Abbey.
Philip, her husband of 73 years, died in April after a short illness. The queen was forced to sit alone at the funeral because of covid restrictions.
On the whole, it has been a difficult year for the queen and royal family.
This month alone, her second son, Prince Andrew, settled a sexual abuse lawsuit brought by a woman who says she was forced to have sex with him as a teenager two decades ago.
The queen’s grandson Prince Harry — who has given up his royal role and is living in California with his wife and two children — sent a legal team to argue at the High Court in London that he “does not feel safe” bringing his family back to Britain without state-supported security.
And the Metropolitan Police launched an investigation into allegations that one of Charles’s charities offered a Saudi billionaire honors and citizenship in exchange for donations.
Jennifer Hassan contributed to this report.