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‘HMS Bubble’: Memo reveals how the Queen and Prince Philip are relying on 22 staff

Twenty two royal staff have sacrificed their home lives to stay isolated at Windsor Castle and serve Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip for the duration of the coronavirus lockdown. 

A memo issued to staff from the master of the household Tony Johnstone-Burt, 62, a former Royal Navy Officer called the mission to protect the Queen and Prince Philip ‘HMS Bubble’.

The Queen, 94, moved from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle on March 19 where she began isolating, Prince Philip, 98, was flown down to join her from Sandringham shortly after.   

In the memo Vice-admiral Johnstone-Burt explains that the staff would be doing their duty by not seeing their families for the duration of the lockdown in order to protect Her Majesty and Prince Philip. 

The Queen, 94, is currently on lockdown with Prince Philip, 98, at her Windsor estate, with 22 members of staff who had to say goodbye to their loved ones for the time being. Pictured during her address to the United Kingdom, which was broadcast on April 5

Comparing the conditions to those he experienced while ‘at sea’ during his 40 years in the Navy he wrote: ‘There are 22 Royal Household staff inside the Bubble, and it struck me that our predicament is not dissimilar to my former life in the Royal Navy on a long overseas deployment.

‘Indeed, the challenges that we are facing whether self-isolating alone at home, or with our close household and families, have parallels with being at sea away from home for many months, and having to deal with a sense of dislocation, anxiety and uncertainty.’

The term ‘HMS bubble’ reportedly amused both the Queen and Philip, who himself served in the Navy where he was nicknamed ‘Big Bubble’, the Sun revealed along with the memo.

In his uplifting message to staff, Mr Johnstone-Burt wrote: ‘I’m sure that we shall emerge as a stronger, more considerate and more resilient Royal Household team as a result and able to do our duty for the Queen.’

A memo, penned by the Master of the Household Tony Johnstone-Burt, 62, was addressed to the 500 members of Palace staff

A memo, penned by the Master of the Household Tony Johnstone-Burt, 62, was addressed to the 500 members of Palace staff

 The Royal Household memo in full:

Living with uncertainty – a deployment in HMS Bubble

I’m at Windsor Castle, in what’s been coined as ‘The Windsor Royal Bubble’ which we have created around the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to keep them safe from the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are 22 Royal Household staff inside the Bubble, and it struck me that our predicament is not dissimilar to my former life in the Royal Navy on a long overseas deployment.

Indeed, the challenges that we are facing whether self-isolating alone at home, or with our close household and families, have parallels with being at sea away from home for many months, and having to deal with a sense of dislocation, anxiety and uncertainty.

My nearly 40 years in the Navy taught me a great deal about what motivates people and how they deal with stress, which is usually created by uncertainty, ambiguity and pressure, and which also sometimes can be self-generated.

Covid-19 has created the same sense of dislocation and heightened anxiety.

Yet despite all this havoc we are expected to carry on working from home as if it’s all ‘business as usual’.

…Regardless of the roles we perform we do them to an exceptional standard to allow the Queen and other members to do their duty to the best of their ability too.

Thank you for all your hard work, patience and kindness towards each other, and rest assured that this extraordinary and unsettling time will pass.

I am also sure that we shall emerge as a stronger, more considerate and more resilient team as a result, and be able to do our duty for the Queen and the other members of the Royal Family even more effectively in the future.

Master of the Household

Tony Johnstone-Burt

Members of the Royal staff believe to be isolating with the Queen include Her Majesty’s private secretary Sir Edward Young, and his own staff, who have all moved into the castle.  

An inside source the The Sun that the utmost priority was to safeguard the good health of the Monarch and her consort: ‘The most important thing is to protect the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh from the virus. If something happened to them it doesn’t bear thinking about.’ 

The Queen has not seen any other members of her family since the start of the lockdown on March 23. 

Addressing the nation on April 5 in a pre-recorded message, the monarch promised that ‘we will meet again.’  

Pictured: A large Royal Standard flies over Windsor Castle where the Queen celebrated her 94th birthday in isolation last week

Pictured: A large Royal Standard flies over Windsor Castle where the Queen celebrated her 94th birthday in isolation last week

No one outside a very small group is allowed access to Upper Ward, the quadrangle which houses the state and private apartments (pictured)

No one outside a very small group is allowed access to Upper Ward, the quadrangle which houses the state and private apartments (pictured)

However, like many people across the nation, she has been keeping in touch with her loved ones via video calls.

It is said she will wish her great-granddaughter Princess Charlotte a happy birthday via video conference app Zoom next Saturday when the young royal turns five. 

Charlotte, who grew up with tablets, is said not to be ‘fazed’ by the circumstances surrounding her big day this year.  

Tony Johnstone-Burt, who has 40 years of experience working in the Royal Navy, took his position as Master of the Household in 2013 and oversees the staff covering everything from housekeeping to maintenance and entertainment.

The Queen is currently in isolation with Prince Philip and 22 members of their staff. Pictured in 2015 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

The Queen is currently in isolation with Prince Philip and 22 members of their staff. Pictured in 2015 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Prince Charles has been in lockdown at his home on the Balmoral estate in Scotland with the Duchess of Cornwall. They're pictured clapping for carers on Thursday

Prince Charles has been in lockdown at his home on the Balmoral estate in Scotland with the Duchess of Cornwall. They’re pictured clapping for carers on Thursday

Prince William, Kate and their children George, six, Charlotte, four, and Louis, two, are spending lockdown in Anmer Hall, their ­Norfolk home. Pictured clapping for carers at 8pm on Thursday evening

Prince William, Kate and their children George, six, Charlotte, four, and Louis, two, are spending lockdown in Anmer Hall, their ­Norfolk home. Pictured clapping for carers at 8pm on Thursday evening

The father-of-five made headline in September 2019 when it was revealed by the Mail on Sunday that he shared a tense conversation with the Queen’s second son Prince Andrew. 

The two men are said to have argued after the Duke of York was refused usage of a Buckingham Palace room for his Pitch@Palace initiative, which helps connect entrepreneurs with potential patrons. 

Prince Andrew was informed the room was not available and was said to have been fine with the decision until Mr Johnstone-Burt – the Queen’s Head of Household – continued to speak his mind about his project. 

The pair then started arguing with one another, and the Duke was said to have got ‘very cross’.

Speaking to the Daily Mail’s Sebastian Shakespeare a source said: ‘Andrew was fine with that, but the aide then started speaking his mind about Pitch@Palace.’

‘It was like poking a bear. HRH turned on him and accused him of not listening and getting the wrong end of the stick.

‘Andrew told him to go and have a word with his private secretary. It was more handbags than hand grenades.’

Buckingham Palace declined to comment on what the row was about at the time, but in a statement confirmed that incident had taken place.     

The Queen has had to leave her much-loved horses in their stables to avoid eager photographers capturing her enjoying her favourite pastime while the UK tackles the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured, on her 79th birthday

The Queen has had to leave her much-loved horses in their stables to avoid eager photographers capturing her enjoying her favourite pastime while the UK tackles the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured, on her 79th birthday

The Queen has been passing the time by keeping up to date with the latest news at her desk, reading newspapers, catching up with family over video messenger and is an avid viewer of television news, according to someone placed close to her inner circle.

Another pastime likely to keep her amused during lockdown is her budgerigars, which has grown from two free-flying Liberty budgies – gifted to her in the 1930s – to a flight of more than a hundred birds.

Graham Stone, the gardener and keeper of the royal budgerigars, revealed the Queen was fascinated by them and even once saved a bird’s life.

‘I know she likes to see them when she is at Windsor,’ he said. ‘In fact it was her vigilance that saved a bird once.’

The bird had caught its leg in the wire caging, and when the Queen noticed she told the gardener, who called a vet to rescue it.   

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk