Queen holds in-person audience day after Andrew settles sexual assault lawsuit

The monarch, 95, met the new Defence Services Secretary at Windsor, six days after her Covid scare.

16 February 2022

The Queen has held an in-person audience the day after the Duke of York settled his sexual assault lawsuit, meeting the official liaison between the sovereign and the armed forces.

The 95-year-old monarch, who already had the official engagement set in her diary, met the incoming Defence Services Secretary Major General Eldon Millar, and his predecessor Rear Admiral James Macleod at Windsor Castle on Wednesday.

It is the head of state’s first in-person appearance since her Covid scare six days ago, suggesting she may have escaped the virus despite coming into contact with the Prince of Wales, who tested positive two days later.

Audience at Windsor Castle
The Queen speaks during an audience at Windsor Castle when she met the incoming and outgoing Defence Service Secretaries (Steve Parsons/PA)

It has been a challenging week for the monarch, despite having just reached her Platinum Jubilee, and the royal family.

Her second son Andrew is facing a multi-million pound payout after settling his sex case out of court, her eldest son Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall caught Covid and now the Metropolitan Police has launched an investigation into a cash for honours scandal involving Charles’s charitable foundation.

Buckingham Palace has continued to refuse to confirm whether the Queen tested positive or negative, citing medical privacy, and saying last week only that she was not displaying any symptoms.

The Queen and the Duke of York
The Queen and the Duke of York (Joe Giddens/PA)

The monarch will have taken daily lateral flow tests over the past seven days, in keeping with current guidelines, and will have been closely monitored by her royal physicians.

In her Oak Room sitting room at her Berkshire castle, the Queen, in a floral dress, greeted Maj Gen Millar on assuming his appointment, and his predecessor Rear Admiral Macleod on relinquishing his role.

The Defence Services Secretary is a member of the Royal Household, and they are the official link between the Queen and the Secretary of State for Defence and the Chiefs of Staff on all matters concerning the monarch’s relationship with the armed forces.

There will be much for Maj Gen Millar to discuss with the Queen, in the wake of Andrew losing his military titles.

Andrew agreed an undisclosed out-of-court settlement with Virginia Giuffre on Tuesday, after she sued him claiming she was trafficked by paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, Andrew’s friend, to have sex with the royal when she was 17 and a minor under US law.

The duke, who is facing a reported £12 million payout, was stripped of his honorary military roles by his mother last month.

But his royal replacements in eight British regiments – including the prestigious post of Colonel of the Grenadier Guards – have yet to be announced.

D-Day 75th anniversary
The Metropolitan Police has launched an investigation into a cash for honours scandal linked to Charles’ Prince’s Foundation charity (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Questions are also being raised over his service rank of Vice Admiral, but Buckingham Palace confirmed the situation has not changed and that the duke retains the rank.

As a former royal member of the armed forces who served in the Royal Navy, he was by convention promoted in line with his still-serving peers and made Vice Admiral by the Navy on his 55th birthday in 2015.

Other publicly unresolved issues surrounding the monarchy and the armed forces include the Duke of Sussex’s former military titles.

Harry’s previous roles – Captain General of the Royal Marines, Honorary Air Force Commandant of the Royal Air Force Base Honington and Honorary Commodore-in-Chief of the Royal Naval Commands’ Small Ships and Diving – have yet to be officially announced as having been passed on to other members of the family.

The Defence Services Secretary is on a three-year rotation.

The last time a new holder took on the appointment in 2019, the Queen held an audience with the incoming secretary, Rear Admiral Macleod, and the outgoing Air Vice-Marshal Garry Tunnicliffe.

But six days later, Andrew, in his role as Vice Admiral, received both of the military men at Buckingham Palace, in an official engagement recorded in the Court Circular in April 2019.

There will be no such audience in the wake of the Queen’s meeting.

The duke, who no longer uses his HRH style, does not carry out public duties, having been cast adrift from the monarchy as a result of the lawsuit.

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