Her Majesty the Queen paid a virtual visit to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to hear about the department’s Covid-19 response and to join a portrait unveiling.
Appearing via videolink, the Queen praised the "incredible work" of department staff responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and FCO chief Sir Simon McDonald hailed the monarch as the UK’s best diplomat for her long service to the nation.
As part of the virtual visit, Her Majesty also saw the unveiling of a new portrait of her painted by 2018 BP Portrait Award winner Miriam Escofet, which will set in the refurbished reception of the soon-to-be-formed Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
The Queen spoke to staff who worked around the clock to repatriate British nationals who struggled to get home due to lockdown measures around the world, and heard about work the government is doing internationally to develop a vaccine for Covid-19.
“It sounds as though everybody in the FCO has been doing the most incredible work. I must say I’m very impressed to hear about it,” she said.
Speaking after the visit, McDonald, who will step down as Foreign Office permanent under secretary and head of the diplomatic service when the new FCDO is formed, said that “Her Majesty The Queen is our best diplomat”.
He said: “We are honoured to have Her Majesty The Queen see this unique portrait unveiling and hear about FCO’s vital work responding to the coronavirus pandemic, getting British travellers home and working with other countries to develop a vaccine.
“This beautiful new portrait is a tribute to her lifetime of service and we’re glad our many visitors will see it for years to come.”
Portrait artist Miriam Escofet said: “It was a huge honour to paint a portrait of Her Majesty and to join The Queen to unveil the portrait virtually. I wanted the portrait to capture Her Majesty’s humanity, her radiance and her warmth, which came through so strongly in the two portrait sittings.”