Queen Elizabeth just held a very special investiture ceremony alongside Prince Charles. The Queen, 96, presented the George Cross to representatives of the National Health Service from the four countries that make up the U.K. at Windsor Castle on Tuesday. The honor was to mark their service during the coronavirus pandemic.
The George Cross was instituted by King George VI in September 1940 during the height of the Blitz to recognize “acts of the greatest heroism or the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger.” It is the highest civilian order that can be bestowed by the monarch.
The Queen met with four frontline workers — one representative from each Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales — as well as their corresponding Chief Executives of the NHS.
This marks only the second time during the Queen’s 70-year reign that the award has been presented collectively to an organization or group of people. In 1999, she presented the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
Although members of the royal family have hosted investiture ceremonies on behalf of the Queen, the monarch herself has not personally handed out honors since 2020, when she knighted Captain Sir Thomas Moore for raising more than $40 million for the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) amid the coronavirus lockdown by walking 100 laps in his backyard garden.For the occasion, the Queen wore a floral print dress and pearl jewelry.
She stood in photos without the aide of a walking cane, which has she has been using in recent months to help with her ongoing mobility issues. However, the cane was nearby behind the Queen’s chair, on which she left her signature handbag during the ceremony.