'Bubble Olympics!' Cheeky Queen hid behind bushes to surprise staff during lockdown


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The Queen took part in the Bubble Olympics in March 2020, a series of sports events and competitions organised and including members of the royal staff who were self-isolating for weeks at a time with Her Majesty and Prince Philip at Windsor Castle. The monarch was informed about this cheerful event, set on the golf course at Windsor Home Park, by her loyal confidante and dressmaker Angela Kelly.

And not only did she decide to host a prize-giving event for the winners of the made-up Olympics, but she also watched them performing from her Range Rover hidden behind large bushes.

Ms Kelly opened up about the event in the updated version of her book The Other Side of the Coin, The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe to be released next month.

The skilled dressmaker, who has been in the Queen’s service for years, said to have sponsored the event, organising “champagne, biscuits and sweets to be delivered”.

But, most importantly, she made it possible for participants to be awarded by the Queen.

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queen news queen elizabeth ii lockdown hms bubble angela kelly book

The Queen pictured in Windsor in 2021 (Image: GETTY)

queen news queen elizabeth ii lockdown hms bubble angela kelly book

The Queen’s dressmaker and confidante Angela Kelly (Image: GETTY)

In an extract from the updated book published by Hello! magazine, Ms Kelly wrote: “I had asked The Queen a few days before if she would mind hosting the prize-giving, to which she very kindly agreed.

“On the day, she came out very quietly and discreetly, and it was amazing to see the looks of surprise and delight when The Queen’s Range Rover pulled up by the golf course and Her Majesty stepped out.

“Little did the staff know that The Queen had actually arrived earlier and had been watching, hidden behind the bushes.

“The prizes were awarded and each team member came forward to receive their award and congratulations from The Queen.

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queen news queen elizabeth ii lockdown hms bubble angela kelly book

The Queen acceded to the throne in 1952 (Image: GETTY)

“The astonishment on their faces was so lovely to watch, and as The Queen drove away in her Range Rover afterwards, everyone was speechless.

“An amazing day that will be cherished by all those who were there.”

Describing the Bubble Olympics, Ms Kelly also wrote: “There were various events, which included rounders and relay.

“If I told you that there were balloons filled with water you might get an idea of the fun that was had out on the golf course in Home Park.”


queen news queen elizabeth ii lockdown hms bubble angela kelly book

The royal staff isolating with the Queen during lockdown was dubbed HMS Bubble (Image: GETTY)

queen news queen elizabeth ii lockdown hms bubble angela kelly book

The Queen has made Windsor Castle her main residence in recent months (Image: GETTY)

The name of the event was likely inspired by “HMS Bubble”, as the small group of aides and staff isolating with the elderly royals during the national lockdowns had been dubbed by the master of the household, Vice-Admiral Sir Tony Johnstone-Burt.

In an email to staff, the former Navy officer likened remaining apart from the outside world for weeks at a time to protect the Queen and Philip from the Covid infection to being out at sea.

He said: “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.”

queen news queen elizabeth ii lockdown hms bubble angela kelly book

Residences of members of the Royal Family in the UK (Image: EXPRESS)

Among Her Majesty’s closest aides there were head groom Terry Pendry, private secretary Sir Edward Young and page of the backstairs Paul Whybrew, also known as Tall Paul.

The Covid bubble surrounding the Queen remained tightly in place for several months and was only relaxed in recent times, after the Government dropped most of the Covid legal restrictions in place in England.

Throughout the lockdowns, the monarch continued to carry out her daily duties as sovereign, receiving the Government’s red boxes, holding privy council meetings and hosting foreign diplomats.

However, she adapted her way to work and embraced technology, carrying out most of her engagements via video link or over the phone.

queen news queen elizabeth ii lockdown hms bubble angela kelly book

The Queen during a virtual audience (Image: GETTY)

She even joined video calls to remain in touch with some of her charities.

Moreover, the Queen continued to hold her audiences with the Prime Minister, albeit over the phone from her residence in Berkshire rather than in person from Buckingham Palace.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the monarch made her main home Windsor Castle, which had previously been her residence of choice for weekends and the Easter period.

Hello! magazine, which features the full extract from Angela Kelly’s updated edition of The Other Side of the Coin, is out now.


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