Queen Undertakes First In-Person Engagement Since Andrew Memorial Criticism

Queen Elizabeth II has undertaken her first in-person engagement at Windsor Castle since the monarch faced criticism for attending the memorial service for her late husband, Prince Philip, on the arm of her disgraced son Prince Andrew.

The queen turned 96-years-old on April 21 and spent the day quietly at her country retreat, Sandringham. The monarch returned to Windsor Castle on Thursday where she met with the president of Switzerland, Ignazio Cassis, and his wife Paola in her private apartments.

The queen wore a paisley print dress and appeared for photographs with the Swiss visitors without a walking stick.

Queen Elizabeth II and President Cassis
Queen Elizabeth II greeted President Ignazio Cassis at Windsor Castle alongside his wife Paola. Dominic Lipinski/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Since late 2021, the queen has used a walking stick when at engagements or greeting dignitaries. Concern over her mobility was heightened in March when on receiving visitors at Windsor Castle, she responded to the question "how are you?" with the answer, "as you can see—I can't move."

Cassis sent a message on Twitter following his meeting with the monarch, calling it a "great honor."

He said: "A great honor to meet Her Majesty The Queen. This sign of friendship between our countries symbolizes the close and long-standing ties between #Switzerland and the #UK. My best wishes for the Platinum Jubilee year!"

The queen has canceled a number of traditional in-person engagements so far this year following a series of health scares last fall and increasing difficulty with her mobility. The Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in March and the Royal Maundy Easter service were both attended by Prince Charles on the queen's behalf.

One important event that the queen did attend in-person was the thanksgiving service for the life of Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey in March.

Given the series of cancelations beforehand, it was reported that the queen was anxious not to overstrain herself and risk not being able to attend the service at which royals from around the world and representatives from government and the prince's charities were present.

When on the day the monarch appeared at the service being walked to her seat by Andrew, who himself had not attended a public event since the settling of his sexual assault lawsuit in the United States brought against him by Virginia Giuffre, critics called the move "gobsmacking."

Charlie Proctor, editor of Royal Central, wrote on Twitter: "This is honestly gobsmacking. Nobody has done more damage to the Royal Family in recent times than Prince Andrew.

"Giving him the main role of 'consort to his mother' is quite ridiculous. How much has he cost Mummy again in legal fees?"

Omid Scobie told Newsweek's The Royal Report podcast that the appearance of Andrew at the event—who stepped down as a working member of the royal family and stopped using his royal titles in January as a result of his scandalous relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and the lawsuit in the States—"completely overshadowed" the memorial.

"I at that moment just felt angry because I knew where this was all going to head," he told chief royal correspondent Jack Royston.

"The focus would move over to Andrew, the service itself would be completely overshadowed and that's exactly what happened."

The monarch's appearance at Windsor Castle on Thursday also marks her first public engagement since Andrew was stripped of his freedom of the City of York honor in the wake of his recent scandals.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Andrew 2022
Queen Elizabeth II faced criticism for her decision to allow Prince Andrew to walk her to her seat for Prince Philip's memorial service. March 29, 2022. Richard Pohle/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Focus now turns to the queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June and whether Andrew is seeking to rehabilitate his image enough that he might make the traditional balcony appearance after the Trooping of the Colour ceremony.

Scobie told The Royal Report: "Andrew has been very keen to move on from mistakes from the past and is probably quite keen to play a role in the Jubilee this summer, so he doesn't have much time to try and repair his image."

Robert Jobson, author of Prince William at 40, told Australian news show Sunrise this week that he believes the queen is the key to Andrew's future involvement in events such as the jubilee and that she very much wants him with her.

"It's going to be a long haul but she has a lot of faith in Andrew," Jobson told Sunrise hosts. "She says that nothing has been proven against him.

"I think a lot of her advisers and even the Prince of Wales are very concerned about this but she's pretty determined that certainly things where she's involved, if she goes to the Derby, that her son will be alongside her."

This does not mean that the rest of the royal family or the wider firm are happy with this decision though, as Jobson speculates. When asked if Andrew would be at the Jubilee, the author responded: "Not if the aides and the courtiers have anything to do with it."

The central celebrations of the queen's Platinum Jubilee will take place from June 2-5 which will form a special four-day bank holiday celebration in Britain. Events planned to take place during the weekend are the Trooping of the Colour ceremony, a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral and a concert outside Buckingham Palace with Ed Sheeran a confirmed headliner.

For more royal news and commentary check out Newsweek's The Royal Report podcast:
Queen Elizabeth II Windsor Castle April 2022
Queen Elizabeth II undertook an in-person audience with the President of Switzerland at Windsor Castle on Thursday. April 28, 2022. Dominic Lipinski/WPA Pool/Getty Images