Charles reveals he lost sense of smell and taste with coronavirus during first post-lockdown engagement

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent

Prince Charles has revealed he lost his sense of smell and taste as he and Camilla held their first in-person public engagement since the beginning of lockdown.

Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall have ended a long stay in Scotland, returning to England in time for a diplomatic visit with the French president Emmanuel Macron, who will be in London on Thursday.

On Tuesday, they carried out a socially-distanced visit to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, where they met about 20 of the frontline workers in the hospital grounds.

During the visit, Charles revealed he lost his sense of taste and smell when he contracted coronavirus.

And Camilla said she had finally been able to see her grandchildren, but could not hug them.

Pictures show the royal couple did not wear masks, but because the engagement was outside, there was no requirement for face coverings.

As shops reopened in England – people are required to wear face coverings on public transport and it is advised in other public enclosed places – Charles and Camilla got back to work as lockdown eases.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall meet front line key workers at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. (PA Images)
The Prince of Wales waves to hospital staff who watched from a distance. (PA Images)

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On the visit, Charles said: “It’s been a marvellous opportunity just to have a chance of seeing people I know have been doing so much – literally on the front line.

“And having to endure an awful lot of stress and strain in their wonderful way – how they do it I don’t know. But delivering everything in the most effective way.”

Charles spoke to Jeff Mills, 47, a healthcare assistant from Cheltenham General Hospital, who later said: “He did speak of his personal experience, so first-hand experience for him. He also spoke about his loss of smell and taste, and sort of still felt he’s still got it now.”

Camilla said: “There is nothing like being able to thank the NHS staff face-to-face even if the choreography is a little bit different.

“They are Britain at its best.”

Camilla previously spoke about how missing her grandchildren was the hardest part of lockdown and revealed in the interview that she had finally seen them last weekend.

She said: “First time, last weekend, not hug them, but see them - a great treat.”

The Prince of Wales remains socially distanced as he a performs a namaste to Professor Mark Pietroni at the hospital. (PA Images)
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall conduct a socially-distanced TV interview. (PA Images)

She admitted she would like to be able to shake hands with people but said it was “very exciting” to be allowed out.

Charles, 71, and Camilla, 72, are both in the government’s high risk category because of their age. Charles has already had COVID-19, but said he had mild symptoms, even able to work throughout.

Camilla tested negative, but underwent a two-week isolation period to ensure she did not pass it on should she develop symptoms.

Charles’s son, Prince William, visited Kings Lynn Ambulance Station at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Norfolk to thank East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) workers for their efforts during the pandemic.

Princess Anne was also back to in-person engagements on Tuesday, and visited nearby Duke of Gloucester Barracks to see military personnel being tested for COVID-19 before heading overseas.

The Duchess of Cornwall is shown a knitted tribute to NHS staff by Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation CEO Deborah Lee. (PA Images)
Social distancing was maintained through the visit. (PA Images)

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Charles and Camilla will welcome Macron to London on Thursday as part of the 80th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s appeal to resist the German occupation during the Second World War.

The royal couple will receive Macron at Clarence House with a Guard of Honour found by Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards accompanied by the Band of the Coldstream Guards.

Despite him coming into the UK from France, Macron and his delegation will not be required to self-isolate on their arrival.

There are exemptions to the government policy of self-isolation which includes diplomatic visits.

It was the couple's first in-person engagement since lockdown. (PA Images)
People wear masks as they watch the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall through the hospital windows. (PA Images)

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It’s understood Charles and Camilla will not be staying in Clarence House permanently now they are back in England, but will travel to London from Highgrove or Ray Mill. Highgrove is the Duke of Cornwall’s home, and Ray Mill is the duchess’s Wiltshire home.

While Charles and Camilla were maskless, other European royals have been wearing face coverings on some of their visits.

Belgium’s Queen Mathilde has been matching her coverings to her outfits, though she has been attending more indoor engagements. She’s also been seen taking her mask off while on the visits.

Queen Mathilde, of Belgium, takes off her matching covering as she visits a cafe. (Getty Images)
King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain visit the natural sciences museum and wear coverings. (Getty Images)