COVID-19 lockdown has brought The Queen and Prince Philip as close as any time in their 72-year marriage
THEY have endured decades of triumph and disaster together – stared evil in the face during the Second World War and come through more than one constitutional crisis.
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Now insiders say the lockdown triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic has brought The Queen and Prince Philip as close as any time in their 72-year marriage.
And not only has Philip been the Queen’s rock during the crisis, he has also managed to pull the Royal Family together to help his wife through some of the toughest times of her reign.
Her Majesty has been beset by the scandal over Prince Andrew’s friendship with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Then Harry and Meghan quitting the Royal Family and fleeing to the States was a body blow to The Firm that many thought would do immense and lasting damage.
But forced to shield together in Windsor Castle in isolation from the rest of the Royal Family, Philip and the Queen have spent more time together than ever.
And sources say the Duke, who has largely retired from public life, has privately given her the strength to carry on.
The couple were pictured in a touching photo released to mark Philip’s 99th birthday last month.
Aides now believe having Philip by the Queen’s side throughout lockdown has sparked their desire to never be apart for long periods again.
A source said: “Everyone who has seen her recently says the Queen appears to have a new lease of life because she loved the chance to spend quality time with Philip again.
“Obviously she has been gravely worried about the nation during the pandemic but those around her have seen how amazing they have been together.
“Because of self-isolation and with only a small team of loyal staff, dubbed ‘HMS Bubble’, this is the first time the Queen has been able to spend quality time with her husband for years.
“They have been able to relax and finally have the chance to live like regular people aged in their 90s should be able to.
“It has sparked whispers within the palace that now, at 94 years old, the Queen could step back further and enjoy her life with Philip.
“But there is no sign she ever wants to stop working.
“They haven’t really had a period of time together like this in many years.
“They have remembered what a good team they are and privately decided they should not be separated ever again.
“They are causing a headache because they don’t want to live apart any more.”
In March, Philip joined the Queen by helicopter at Windsor from Wood Farm on the Sandringham estate, in Norfolk, where he had set up home following his retirement in 2017.
Initially they were to remain together for several weeks over Easter. But the pandemic worsened and HMS Bubble restrictions were imposed.
They have enjoyed being side by side again and exercised together with only a handful of staff disturbing their peace.
But the Queen has continued to work and received her red boxes containing official documents from the Government.
And royal sources have described how her spirits were buoyed by last week’s wedding of her granddaughter Beatrice, 31, and property developer Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, 37, which was the kind of close-knit affair the monarch has always enjoyed.
It was the first time she had seen members of her family since March. Now aides are hastily trying to arrange more family reunions when the Duke and the Queen extend their time together for their annual summer stay at Balmoral in Scotland next month.
With Harry and Meghan in LA and Andrew facing questions over Epstein, sources revealed the Queen has also taken great pride in William and Kate spearheading the fam- ily’s res- ponse to the Covid crisis.
The “Iron Duke” — who spent four nights in hospital over Christmas as a precautionary measure for what Palace officials called a “pre-existing condition” — is delighted to be leading from the front.
Invigorated by isolation, he looked back to his best in photos at Beatrice and Edo’s surprise wedding at All Saints Chapel in Windsor Great Park.
Then he briefly stepped out of retirement on Wednesday to hand over his role as Commander-in-Chief of The Rifles regiment to the Duchess of Cornwall.
And he surprised everyone by walking down four steps and making a wisecrack to LCpl Colin Streetin.
He asked the soldier if he was keeping fit and they both had a chuckle when bugler Colin replied: “Are you trying to say I am fat?” It is the sort of cheeky humour that Philip has become associated with during his many decades of public service.
The duke was a dashing naval captain when he met the young Princess Elizabeth before the Second World War.
They traded letters during the conflict and smitten Philip kept a photo of the future Queen.
Philip and Elizabeth married in November 1947 at Westminster Abbey. The duke gave up his Navy career when Elizabeth was crowned in 1953.
At her coronation, he pledged to “become your liege man of life and limb”. But he reportedly struggled to play second fiddle and was accused of affairs during their fledgling marriage, which have never been proven.
A storyline In TV drama The Crown, featuring Philip having a fling with a Russian ballet dancer, was dismissed as fiction.
At the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary in 1997, the Queen said: “He has, quite simply, been my strength and my stay all these years.”
After the duke retired three years ago, having clocked up 22,219 solo engagements since 1952, the Queen spent weekdays at Buckingham Palace with a heavy workload before spending weekends on her own at Windsor Castle.
Insiders say the duke was happy reading, painting and staying active and regularly spoke with the Queen on the telephone. Dickie Arbiter, former Buckingham Palace spokesman, said: “They get on very well. He has been at Sandringham because if he stays in London and Windsor there is not a lot for him to do.”
But after their Balmoral break they will have spent seven months by each other’s side — and aides are now working to keep them together.
Traditionally at their Scottish home the Queen and Prince Philip have been hands-on and famously in charge of a family barbecue.
The couple also welcome friends and family to the estate, although this year meetings will take place outdoors.
They will travel together with a new HMS Bubble of up to 24 loyal staff.
And no doubt the Queen and Prince Philip will be looking forward to spending as much time together as they can.
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