Camilla wears face mask for National Gallery visit

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The Duchess of Cornwall has been pictured in a face mask for the first time on an official royal engagement and joked about whether anyone could hear her speak.

Camilla was visiting the National Gallery in central London to meet staff involved in its Covid-19 response and reopening process.

The duchess’s stylish blue Liberty print mask, which was made by couture designer Fiona Clare, matched the navy blue shade of her dress.

Camilla turned 73 on July 17 and the peacock-patterned face covering was a birthday gift from a friend.

The outer layers will be made of limited edition Liberty print fabrics and will match the couturier’s first ready-to-wear collection which she created in lockdown and is due to launch online in August.

The inner layer is made of cotton lawn, and features poppers at the sides allowing its removal for washing.

The elastic loops were gentle on Camilla’s ears, being covered with plain silk.

After an unprecedented 111 days with its doors closed, the National Gallery started welcoming visitors again on July 8 – the first major national art museum to reopen in the UK following lockdown.

Camilla complied with the gallery’s new rules for her indoor engagement.

The Duchess of Cornwall arrives at the recently reopened National Gallery (Aaron Chown/PA)

Camilla told the gallery’s chairman, Lord Hall, who was wearing a clear visor, and gathered staff: “You’re the first gallery to open.

“I think it’s brilliant. Hopefully it’s going to inspire a lot of others to follow you on.

She prompted laughter as she pointed at her fabric mask and added: “If anybody can hear me through this… Anyway, congratulations to all of you.”

Members of the royal family have had to adapt to an unprecedented change in the way they carry out royal duties during the coronavirus pandemic.

Public appearances were swapped for online video calls as the Windsors followed the rules and stayed at home, but in recent weeks the royals have been carrying out socially distanced engagements.

As the duchess adjusted to using a face covering, she expressed a preference for the visors worn by staff instead, and joked that she wished she was wearing her own one.

Camilla’s mask was a birthday present from a friend (Aaron Chown/PA)

Lord Hall replied: “You get used to them.”

The duchess added later: “It’s a bit muffled. You have to have your ear trumpet to hear.”

She told gallery staff member Carole Keltie: “I wish I was in my visor.”

The duchess, whose husband the Prince of Wales is patron of the gallery, said of the reopening: “It’s lovely to see relative normality.”

Charles contracted Covid-19, but isolated from Camilla, who did not catch the virus.

The Duke of Cambridge in a mask as he met scientists at the Oxford Vaccine Group’s facility at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford (Steve Parsons/PA)

The Earl and Countess of Wessex have also both seen wearing masks as they volunteered during lockdown.

Camilla also visited Boots’ Piccadilly Store to hear about their support of the charity Hestia’s Safe Spaces programme.

Lyndsey Dearlove and Patrick Ryan, from the charity, told the duchess how the initiative to provide consultation rooms as a safe space is helping people who have been affected by domestic violence, especially during lockdown.

Hestia chief executive Mr Ryan said: “One of the things is that we have begun to talk more about domestic abuse as we’ve seen the calls rise so significantly during the pandemic.

“Providing additional refuge spaces and helping more in safe spaces like here in Boots has been so important. It’s now a public conversation rather than a private humiliation.”

Ms Dearlove told Camilla: “It’s the pharmacists who have supported this to offer the safe spaces that are so vital.”

The duchess replied: “Thank you so much for all the work you do. It’s so important to have your help and we definitely have to talk about (domestic violence) more. We must break the shroud of silence.”

In the consultation room, the duchess saw an example of a Boots wash bag and was given an update on the Wash Bag Project, the idea for which came from Camilla.

The bags contain a range of toiletries and are provided at sexual assault referral centres to offer survivors of rape or sexual abuse a degree of comfort and familiarity.

The duchess also thanked the pharmacists for keeping the store open day and night during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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