Queen Elizabeth II hosted a series of virtual audiences Tuesday, raising hopes that Her Majesty may have avoided contracting the coronavirus, despite the fact that both Charles and Camilla tested positive for the virus in the past few days.

Charles’ test was taken on Thursday, two days after he saw the queen in person.

Her Majesty received the Ambassador of Estonia, Viljar Lubi, via video link. The ambassador was at Buckingham Palace while the queen stayed at Windsor Castle where she is in residence.

The queen also received the Spanish ambassador, José Pascual Marco Martínez.

Although it is not a definitive signal that the queen is in full health, and the palace has not said whether or not the queen has COVID, the monarch’s appearance will fuel the sense is that the emergency is over, for now at least.

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The events of the past few days, however, highlight the challenges that the royals face managing public interest in the queen’s health for the rest of Elizabeth’s days.

There is no denying that the monarch’s wellbeing and mortality is a subject of considerable fascination for the British people. This is quite legitimate given her advanced age (she will soon turn 96), the constitutional significance of her death and her refusal to contemplate abdication.

Monday’s edition of the Guardian saw a lengthy opinion piece by the respected commentator and broadcaster Simon Jenkins, which resuscitated the debate about abdication that the queen attempted to kill off last week, when, in a jubilee message, she made it clear she had no intention of standing down.

“The queen may be fit, but she is clearly delicate,” Jenkins opined.

It is a valid point, but the simple fact, as she has made very clear, is that the queen is never going to abdicate, which means that the guessing games around her health are only going to get more frequent and intense as her age increases.

Elizabeth has been buffeted by health scares since the death of her husband and was even briefly hospitalized. Every twist and turn of her failing health tops British newspapers and news bulletins.

When Charles contracted COVID and it was realized he had spent time with the queen when he might well have been infectious, it triggered a tidal wave of speculation. The palace maintained silence, saying it wouldn’t give a “running commentary” on Elizabeth’s health.

There was understanding and sympathy for the way Charles could have inadvertently exposed his mother to the virus, given that he is not only triple-vaccinated but also contracted the disease himself in the first wave to hit the U.K. in 2020.

To catch it again after all that seems like terribly bad luck.

But the decision to allow his wife, Camilla, to continue with a full program of public engagements after her husband had got the virus, only for her to be confirmed to have tested positive for the disease on Monday, does seem a little lax.

For one senior member of the royal family to get COVID and spread it around the nation could be excused as a misfortune, for it to happen twice looks suspiciously like carelessness, as Oscar Wilde might have said.

However, if it emerges that despite the cordon sanitaire around the queen herself being breached she escaped without getting the virus, then this particular panic might fade away before Camilla’s period of self-isolation is over in five days.

Camilla is thought to be in generally good health—and although sometimes caricatured as a chain-smoker, she actually gave up smoking many years ago.

This time, the signs are that they might have just got away with it. But the bigger issue—the national obsession with Queen Elizabeth’s mortality—will not be going anywhere fast.



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