The Queen has cancelled all garden parties for 2021 as coronavirus continues to rage out of control in the UK.
It comes a day after fresh lockdowns for England and Scotland were triggered by the spread of a new, more infectious variant, records for cases and second wave deaths, and a surge in Covid-19 hospital admissions.
The Queen, 94, and husband Prince Philip, 99, are at high risk from the disease and have been shielding during the pandemic.
All garden parties planned for Buckingham Palace in central London and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh have been called off amid the ongoing threat posed by the virus and restrictions that could last for some time.
Royal staff are facing difficulties planning events due to the crisis.
A palace spokesman said: “The decision has been taken that garden parties will not take place in 2021.”
In a normal year, the Queen would welcome more than 30,000 guests from all walks of life to a series of summer garden parties – three at Buckingham Palace and one at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
At each party, around 27,000 cups of tea, 20,000 sandwiches and 20,000 slices of cake are consumed, according to the Royal Family’s website.
Garden parties took the place of presentation parties attended by debutantes and havesince evolved into a way of recognising and rewarding public service.
Last month, the monarch used her Christmas Day message to praise frontline healthcare workers and reassure anyone struggling without friends and family that they “are not alone”.
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She and the Duke of Edinburgh, who turns 100 this June, spent the day apart from family as swathes of England were in Tier 4, the toughest restrictions under the localised system.
The couple have been living at Windsor Castle during the pandemic with a small household staff.
In her New Year message, she said: “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.”
On Monday, the Queen marked the 75th anniversary of Woman’s Hour by wishing the BBC Radio 4 programme “continued success in your important work as a friend, guide and advocate to women everywhere”.
The head of state – who is thought to be a fan of the programme – sent her good wishes to all those involved in the long-running and popular show in a message.
It came as broadcaster Emma Barnett began her first day as Woman’s Hour presenter, taking over from Jane Garvey and Dame Jenni Murray, who both left last year.
Reading the Queen’s message, Barnett said: “As you celebrate your 75th year, it is with great pleasure that I send my best wishes to the listeners and all those associated with Woman’s Hour.
“During this time, you have witnessed and played a significant part in the evolving role of women across society, both here and around the world.
“In this notable anniversary year, I wish you continued success in your important work as a friend, guide and advocate to women everywhere.”
The broadcaster said the programme had approached the Queen as “one of the most influential and well-known women in the world” to see if she wanted to mark the 75th anniversary of the show with a message.
Barnett added: “And she is someone who, in this very strange, unsettling and, quite frankly, deeply upsetting time, that millions have been tuning into to hear the words of, and she doesn’t send messages very often.”
The Queen’s 95th birthday will be celebrated on one of five new commemorative coins released this year, the Royal Mint has said.
The new British coin collection for 2021 will also commemorate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott, and the 75th anniversary of the death of science fiction author HG Wells.
The Queen, who will become the first British monarch to reach the age of 95, on April 21, will have her birthday celebrated with a new £5 coin.
The issue of a £5 coin is usually reserved for special royal occasions.
The coin features the royal cypher “EIIR”, as well as the words “my heart and my devotion” which references part of her 1957 Christmas broadcast, the first to be televised.
Five different effigies of the Queen have been created by the Royal Mint documenting her reign, with her face on every British coin in circulation.
The monarch’s cousin Lady Mary Colman died “peacefully” at the age of 88 at her Norfolk home on Saturday.