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Did the Queen wear a coronavirus brooch for her first visit since March?

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·5-min read

Watch: Queen carries out first engagement outside of royal palaces

The Queen made her first public appearance outside of the royal palaces on Thursday when she joined grandson Prince William on a visit to the top-secret science facility at Porton Down, in Wiltshire.

The science park near Salisbury is home to two government facilities and is probably best known for its part in the response to the 2018 Novichok poisoning.

And while her visit was mostly to do with seeing the site’s counter intelligence operation and thanking scientists and staff involved in the clean-up of the nerve agent two years ago, the monarch did appear to give a nod to the current pandemic.

Eagle-eyed tweeters noticed Her Majesty’s brooch bore a striking resemblance to the coronavirus.

The brooch was a gift from Prince Philip in 1966, and it’s one she has worn on many occasions, including in the 2017 portraits of them to mark their platinum anniversary.

Read more: When have the Queen and Prince William carried out royal engagements?

Details of the brooch worn by Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to the Energetics Analysis Centre at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down, Wiltshire, to view a display of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. The brooch was a gift from the Duke of Edinburgh in 1966, for her visit to Porton Down.
The brooch, a gift from the Duke of Edinburgh in 1966, that the Queen wore during her visit to Porton Down. (PA)
This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2-also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19-isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. (Photo by: IMAGE POINT FR - LPN/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
The SARS-CoV-2-also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19. Some Twitter users noticed Her Majesty’s brooch bore a striking resemblance to the virus. (Universal Images Group)

One person tweeted: “HM wore pink & sported a brooch that looked remarkably like the graphic being used to traumatise the entire world.”

He also noted that Philip once said that if he was reincarnated he would like to “return as a deadly virus in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation”.

Another asked: “Was the queen wearing a coronavirus brooch today at Porton Down??”

One said: “Anyone else spot the Queen’s COVID-19 brooch?”

Read more: It's love versus duty: Harry and William rift 'as serious as the abdication'

The brooch was made by Andrew Grima, and is referred to as the Grima or Scarab brooch. It clearly means a lot to the Queen, because she wears it on landmark occasions, including in 2011 for her trip to Ireland, the first trip by a reigning monarch for 100 years.

It’s made of yellow gold with a carved ruby and diamonds.

The Queen’s trip to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down included seeing the Linear Accelerator (Linac), an X-ray machine used for inspecting weapons and munitions, and she and William watched an explosive-detection scenario as police sniffer dog Max was tasked with finding explosives in a white van.

But the Queen did speak briefly about the current situation, saying: “It’s doubling itself again.”

EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT REQUIRED Handout file photo, first issued 18/11/17 by Camera Press of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh by British photographer Matt Holyoak, taken in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle in early November, in celebration of their platinum wedding anniversary on November 20.
The Queen wore the brooch for her platinum wedding photos with Prince Philip. (Matt Holyoak)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II smiles at wellwishers as she arrives at Falmouth Station, for the beginning of her nationwide Golden Jubilee tour, which is starting with a two-day visit to the West Country.   *  One of her first engagements Wednesday is the naming of a new lifeboat.  In the coming weeks, the 76-year-old monarch will visit every region of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Queen wearing the brooch at Falmouth Station, at the beginning of her nationwide Golden Jubilee tour in 2002. (PA)

After she was told the situation was being monitored, she said: “Well I suppose it was expected?”

Professor Tim Atkins, who co-ordinates the Dstl’s COVID-19 response, replied: “Predicted ma’am, yes.”

The Queen added: “With all these horrible new things…”

Prof Atkins responded: “Absolutely, it’s an emerging new disease.”

No one wore a mask during the Queen’s visit, with the royal following the advice of her own medics, as all the staff had been tested for coronavirus before the engagement, and were negative.

However, Kensington Palace declined to comment on whether William was tested for coronavirus to go on the trip with his grandmother. He kept a distance from her throughout the day and arrived separately.

PA added “it is understood the duke was also tested in order to accompany his grandmother, and was negative”.

Pressure group Republic criticised the Queen for not wearing a mask, though much of the visit was either outside or in structures like gazebos.

Read more: Queen goes without mask in first public engagement since lockdown with Prince William at Porton Down

Dstl Chief Executive Gary Aitkenhead (R) speaks as Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (C) and Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, (L) prepare to unveil a plaque to officially open the new Energetics Analysis Centre at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park near Salisbury, southern England, on October 15, 2020. - The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
The staff and the visitors tried to keep a safe distance throughout the trip on Thursday. (AFP)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II visits the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park on October 15, 2020 near Salisbury, England. The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Queen's brooch is one she wears fairly regularly. (Ben Stansall - WPA Pool)

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “Specific advice has been sought from the medical household and relevant parties, and all necessary precautions taken, working closely with Dstl.”

Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, said: “The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge will inevitably be criticised for not wearing a face covering, but medical advice was sought while the royal visit was being planned and social distancing seemingly was maintained throughout.”

Many members of the Royal Family, including Prince William and Kate, Prince Edward and Sophie, and Prince Charles and Camilla, have been pictured in face coverings on their engagements.

The incoming tier two restrictions in London are likely to affect how William and his wife Kate can work in the coming weeks, but the Queen, who moved back to Windsor Castle instead of Buckingham Palace, is still in tier one.

Tier two restrictions means household mixing in indoor settings is banned.