There was some speculation Friday that the queen and/or Moore might don a mask for the ceremony, but they did not. Instead, the medal-bedecked Moore was shown marching double-time across the mowed lawn of the castle’s quadrangle with the aid of his trusty walker. He then stood before the queen, who touched his shoulders with a very long sword that once belonged to her father, George VI — and that provided some social distancing.
The queen stepped closer to her new knight to hand him a medal and chat.
“Ready and raring to go for what is a very special day,” Moore wrote before the ceremony on his Twitter account. He told the BBC he would not kneel before the queen, “because if I did I’ll never get up again.”
It was the first investiture and the queen’s first semipublic appearance since the start of the pandemic, which has posed unique challenges for the 94-year-old monarch and a royal family that is in the business of bringing people together.
“One of the queen’s mantras is, ‘I need to be seen to be believed,’ ” said Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine. “She knows she has to be visual. She’s made a big effort to be as visible as she can while adhering to government guidelines.”
Before Friday, these appearances had come in the form of Zoom calls and speeches aired on television. The palace released pictures of the queen riding a horse on the grounds of Windsor Castle and a photo of her with her husband, Prince Philip, on his 99th birthday.
For the past four months, the pair have been self-isolating at Windsor Castle.
Has the queen, whose job is to inspire, had a good pandemic? Is that even a polite question to ask about her nonagenarian majesty?
The Court Circular, the royal family’s official record of royal duties, looks markedly different than it did only a few months ago, with many of the royal visits with world leaders, ambassadors and other notables taking place via phone or video link.
When Charles traveled to London last month to attend a ceremony with President Emmanuel Macron, he greeted the French leader with a namaste gesture instead of a traditional handshake.
When Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, held her first “engagement” post-lockdown — at a garden center near her family’s country home in Norfolk — she was pictured talking to staffers at some distance. When her husband, Prince William, popped into a nearby bakery, he was sure to use a lot of hand sanitizer.
No royal has yet been pictured wearing a face covering, but that may be only a matter of time — the government is making face coverings mandatory in shops at the end of next week.
The queen’s other son, Prince Andrew, has mostly hidden from view for months — not for fear of the virus but because he withdrew from royal duties after giving a disastrous BBC interview about his long friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in a New York jail while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.
And Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex? The couple quit their palace jobs in a well-reported huff and jetted off with baby Archie to Los Angeles, where they have spent the pandemic living in an $18 million, 25,000-square-foot Beverly Ridge Estates mansion owned by actor and entertainment mogul Tyler Perry, according to the Daily Mail.
Commentators have been busy debating the impact the pandemic has had on the royal family and its future.
Royal coffers are expected to take a massive hit this year — even though the palace recently launched its own $50 “small-batch dry gin,” which sold out in eight hours online and is on back order until September. The Royal Collection Trust, a charity that relies on income from visitors to royal residences, said it is predicting losses of $37 million and has offered voluntary redundancy to its 650 staffers.
Andrew Morton, a British author and journalist who wrote an explosive book about the late Princess Diana, told the Daily Telegraph that “the brutal truth is that [Queen Elizabeth’s] reign is effectively over. Covid-19 has done more damage to the monarchy than Oliver Cromwell.”
“Corona has practically put Charles on the throne,” Morton said. “It’s terribly sad, but I can’t see how the queen can resume her job.”
Others disagreed. Robert Lacey, a royal biographer, referenced her video calls and said that the queen has “played a blinder” during the pandemic, offering a British expression for “doing something exceptionally well.”
For an old institution often seen as stuck in its ways and driven by ritual and protocol, it was jarring to some at first to see members of the royal family on video calls from their living rooms. Pundits pored over the bookshelf of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after it appeared in a photograph.
William and Kate, as the Duchess of Cambridge is widely known, may seem more “relatable” because of their Zoom chats — as some headlines claim — but arguably the public may not want their future king too relatable.
“Royal stuff has to be done with a degree of grandeur and pageantry. That’s the point of it — otherwise it’s not special,” said Robert Hardman, author of “Queen of the World,” a book about Elizabeth.
“So how do you continue to convey that sense of the nation in human form, recognizing the work of others — and doing it in a royal way?” Hardman asked. “It’s not immediately obvious how you do that, but I think they found a way of doing it the best they can.”
The monarch’s signal pandemic moment, arguably, came when she gave a rare speech to the nation — on the same day that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalized for covid-19. Many said her speech evoked a misty, nostalgic World War II spirit.
The queen’s approval ratings have remained sky high throughout the pandemic. In contrast, confidence in the Johnson government’s handling of the coronavirus has collapsed in recent weeks.