Buckingham Palace has confirmed that the upcoming state visit by the Emperor and Empress of Japan will no longer go ahead, in light of the coronavirus pandemic. An official statement released on behalf of the Queen reads: "After consultation with Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Japan, Her Majesty The Queen has agreed that, in the current circumstances, the planned State Visit to the United Kingdom in Spring 2020 by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan should be postponed. The State Visit will be rescheduled at a later date."
The Japanese royals' state visit to the UK has been postponed
It was confirmed in January that Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako had accepted an invitation from Her Majesty to visit the United Kingdom in the spring, and would be staying at Windsor Castle for the duration of their state visit. State visits are a huge undertaking, with hundreds of royal household staff, members of the military and police officers needed to ensure the smooth running of programmes. Key elements include a ceremonial welcome by the armed forces and a grand state banquet for 170 guests including senior royals, politicians and dignitaries.
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State visits have been postponed before. A stay by Spain's King Felipe in 2016 was delayed to June 2017 due to a political crisis in his country, and again to July 2017 because of the UK general election. A state visit by King Abdullah of Jordan was postponed in 2000 because of the crisis in the Middle East amid Israeli-Palestinian fighting.
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Up until now, it has been business as usual for the 93-year-old Queen, who held a private audience at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday. Her Majesty received Commodore Steven Moorhouse (outgoing Commanding Officer, HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH) and Captain Angus Essenhigh (incoming Commanding Officer) in her private audience room at the palace.
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The monarch was dressed in a royal blue shift dress with her signature pearl necklace and Queen Mary's Russian diamond and sapphire brooch. There were no handshakes – only bows from the officers during the meeting. Audiences are brief, one-on-one meetings which happen regularly throughout the Queen's working week.
On Thursday, however, the Queen will move to Windsor Castle for her Easter break, one week earlier than planned. She is likely to stay there beyond the Easter period. Up until now, the 93-year-old monarch has only been spending weekends at her Windsor residence, returning to London during the week to carry out her royal duties. In a lengthy statement, Buckingham Palace said: "As a sensible precaution and for practical reasons in the current circumstances, a number of changes are being made to the Queen’s diary."
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The Queen and members of the royal family usually attend an Easter Sunday church service in Windsor, but it has not been confirmed at this stage, whether this will go ahead. Her Majesty is usually joined by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren over the Easter period, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Zara Tindall, Peter Phillips, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.