February 3, 2020 / 12:53 PM / a month ago

Queen Elizabeth makes first public appearance since Harry and Meghan's exit

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Queen Elizabeth departs after a church service at St Peter & St Paul in West Newton, Norfolk, Britain, February 2, 2020. REUTERS/Chris Radburn

LONDON (Reuters) - Queen Elizabeth made her first official appearance since Prince Harry and Meghan’s unexpected announcement last month that they would quit their royal duties and seek financial independence.

The queen, who celebrates 68 years on the throne later this week, visited the Royal Air Force (RAF) base in Marham, eastern England, to watch demonstrations and meet trainees.

It was the 93-year-old monarch’s first official outing since her grandson Harry and his American wife Meghan shocked the House of Windsor by announcing they wished to step back from some royal duties and spend more time in Canada and the United States.

Elizabeth ultimately decided that the couple would no longer be working members of Britain’s monarchy, no longer use their “Royal Highness” titles and be financially independent.

Since her last public appearance, there has been renewed publicity over her second son Prince Andrew’s links to the disgraced late U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein after Manhattan-based U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said he had provided “zero assistance” to U.S. authorities.

Visiting RAF Marham in her role as Honorary Air Commodore, Elizabeth wore a peach-coloured outfit and smiled as she shook hands with staff.

The base, which employs over 3,600 people, opened in 1916 to defend the British county Norfolk from raids by German airships during the World War One. It is now the home of the F-35B Lightning fighter plane.

Heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and his eldest son Prince William both served as RAF pilots, while Prince Harry flew in the army air corps as part of his 10-year military career which ended in 2013.

Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; editing by Guy Faulconbridge

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