LONDON – As the end of a week of abject remorse, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain on Friday apologized to Buckingham Palace for the raucous celebrations held in Downing Street the night before Queen Elizabeth II buried her husband, Prince Philip, in a social distant ceremony that left her grieving alone in a choir stall.
Mr Johnson, who apologized in parliament on Wednesday for attending a garden party during a 2020 lockdown, was not present at either meeting. But reports of more alcoholic conviviality in Downing Street on the eve of a somber funeral ceremony remembered for its poignant image of an isolated, masked monarch dealt another blow to an already shaky prime minister.
“It is deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning,” a Downing Street spokesman said as outrage at the parties mounted, “and No. 10 has apologized to the palace for that.”
Buckingham Palace, which was preoccupied with a crisis of its own, declined to comment on the apology. On Thursday, the Queen stripped her second son, Prince Andrew, of his military titles and royal charities after a New York judge ruled a sexual abuse lawsuit against him could go ahead.
The Downing Street spokesman did not say whether Johnson plans to apologize personally to the Queen the next time he has a weekly audience with her. His declaration of remorse to the party in May 2020, however remorseful, has failed to calm the storm that has raged around him, with opposition leaders and even a handful of Conservative Party MPs saying he must resign.
“This shows how severely Boris Johnson has downgraded the office of Prime Minister,” Labor Party leader Keir Starmer said in a statement. a message on Twitter. An apology is not the only thing the prime minister should offer the palace today. Boris Johnson should do the right thing and step down.”
The bacchanal details of the two sides on April 16, first reported in the Daily Telegraph, are vivid. For one of them, the newspaper said, a staff member was sent to a nearby store to fill a suitcase with bottles of wine. An assistant acted as a disc jockey, and the revelers went on into the wee hours, even breaking a backyard swing used by Mr. Johnson’s toddler son, Wilfred. Mr Johnson was away at the prime minister’s country retreat, Checkers, officials said at the time.
Among the events was a farewell party for a Downing Street press spokesman, James Slack, who was leaving to become deputy editor of The Sun, one of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids. The Sun reported on the party after the competition broke it.
“I want to apologize unconditionally for the anger and pain caused,” Mr Slack said in a statement on Friday. “This event should not have happened at the time it happened. I am very sorry and take full responsibility.”
Reflecting on the recent revelations, Mr Johnson has asked lawmakers to await the findings of an internal investigation of the parties by a senior official, Sue Gray. That is not expected until next week at the earliest, with expectations growing that Ms Gray will focus on the drinking culture in the Prime Minister’s office.
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The Secretary of State, Liz Truss, who is seen as a potential successor to Mr Johnson, appealed to the public to move forward. “He has apologized,” she told reporters. “I think now we need to move on and talk about how we’re going to solve problems.”
But that seemed unlikely, especially given the tabloid-ready nature of the latest reports, which juxtaposed descriptions of raucous revelry in Downing Street with austere images of the grieving queen isolated in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The funeral was so limited by lockdown demands that Mr Johnson himself gave up his seat to admit an additional member of the royal family.
In her annual Christmas address, the Queen paid tribute to her late husband and lamented how the pandemic had curtailed holiday celebrations.
“While Covid again means we can’t celebrate quite the way we would have liked,” she said, “we can still enjoy the many happy traditions.”