Despite the announcement that her son Prince Andrew is "stepping back from public duties," the monarch retained her sense of humor during a solo appearance in London

By Stephanie Petit
November 21, 2019 10:21 AM

Queen Elizabeth, the comedian!

Despite the shocking announcement that her son Prince Andrew is “stepping back from public duties,” the 93-year-old monarch retained her sense of humor during a solo appearance in London Wednesday evening. Wearing a light pink ensemble with a diamond brooch by Angela Kelly, the Queen visited the Royal Institute of International Affairs to present an award to Sir David Attenborough and Julian Hector, head of the BBC Natural History Unit, for their work on the Blue Planet II series.

The Queen made sure to sign the visitors’ book — but not before cracking a joke about her 72nd wedding anniversary to Prince Philip.

“What’s the date?” she cheekily asked Chatham House director Dr. Robin Niblett.

When he replied that it was Nov. 20, the monarch laughed and said: “Well, of course I know what the date is!”

After signing her name, the Queen added: “Now, well, that proves I came here.”

Eddie Mulholland - WPA Pool/Getty
David Attenborough, Queen Elizabeth and Julian Hector
Eddie Mulholland - WPA Pool/Getty

The royal couple spent their 72nd anniversary apartPhilip, 98, remained at Sandringham, Norfolk, about 110 miles from London, where the Queen is based as part of her working week. Philip, who retired from royal duty in August 2017, has been resting at the estate’s Wood Farm. There, renovations were undertaken several years ago to make it easier for a man of his age to live.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip
Antony Jones/Getty Images

But despite the happy occasion — and well wishes from Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, Kate Middleton and Prince William — the royal family’s day was shadowed by the announcement that Prince Andrew will “step back from public duties for the foreseeable future” in the aftermath of his explosive BBC interview about his ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Prince Andrew; Jeffrey Epstein
Ian Forsyth/Getty Images; Neil Rasmus/Patrick McMullan

“It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family’s work and the valuable work going on in the many organisations and charities that I am proud to support,” Prince Andrew said in a statement.

“Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission.”

Prince Andrew
BBC/Mark Harrison

Since the interview aired on Saturday night in the U.K., the Queen’s second son has been widely criticized for not showing empathy for the victims of Epstein — who died by suicide in jail in New York City in August while awaiting trial on multiple sex charges — and for his decision to stay with at the financier’s New York home in December 2010. That came just months after Epstein had served 13 months of an 18 month sentence for procuring a minor for prostitution.

Andrew also said he had “no recollection of ever meeting” Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who alleges she was forced to have sex with the royal three times between 1999 and 2002 in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island owned by Epstein when she was 17 years old.

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Prince Andrew initially believed that his controversial interview went “quite well.” On Sunday, Andrew, 59, accompanied his mother Queen Elizabeth to church at Windsor and is reported to have told her that he thought the interview was a success. Buckingham Palace won’t confirm conversations between members of the family, but say that she was “aware” of the interview.