Downing Street has apologised to Buckingham Palace over two “deeply regrettable” parties held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.
The apology is understood to have been communicated by “official channels” and over the telephone.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office declined to specify exactly who had communicated the apology.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “It is deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning. Number 10 has apologised to the Palace.
Sue Gray, the civil servant overseeing the probe into alleged lockdown-breaking government parties, is investigating the two leaving events held in Downing Street on April 16, 2021 – the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.
It means those present could be called in by Ms Gray to describe the events, which were revealed in the Telegraph yesterday.
On the evening in question, Britain was in a period of public mourning while Covid restrictions banned indoor mixing. One of the two events was a party for James Slack, Boris Johnson’s former director of communications, who this morning apologised “unreservedly”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman declined to comment on whether he was made aware his son Wilf’s swing was allegedly broken on the night of April 16.
Downing Street declined to answer questions on details of the gatherings during the briefing of political reporters on Friday morning. Mr Johnson is spending today working in Downing Street and is not expected to give any public comment today.
Boris Johnson is facing the gravest crisis of his premiership after almost daily revelations about a series of social gatherings during COVID-19 lockdowns, some held when ordinary people could not bid farewell in person to dying relatives.
After building a political career out of flouting accepted norms, Johnson is now under growing pressure from some of his own lawmakers to quit. Opponents say he is unfit to rule and has misled parliament by denying COVID-19 guidance was breached.
In an extraordinary twist to a saga that has been widely lampooned by comedians and cartoon artists, the Daily Telegraph said drinks parties were held inside Downing Street on April 16, 2021, the day before Prince Philip’s funeral.
“It is deeply regrettable this took place at a time of national mourning and No. 10 (Downing Street) has apologised to the Palace,” Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.
Johnson was at his Chequers country residence that day and was not invited to any gathering, his spokesman said.
Such was the revelry in Downing Street, the Telegraph said, that staff went to a nearby supermarket to buy a suitcase of alcohol, spilled wine on carpets, and a swing used by the prime minister’s young son was broken.
The next day, Queen Elizabeth bade farewell to Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years, following his death aged 99.
Dressed in black and in a white trimmed black face mask, the 95-year-old Elizabeth cut a poignant figure as she sat alone, in strict compliance with coronavirus rules, during the funeral service for Philip at Windsor Castle.
Opponents have called for Johnson, 57, to resign, casting him as a charlatan who demanded the British people follow some of the most onerous rules in peacetime history while his own staff partied at the heart of the British state.
A small but growing number in his own Conservative Party have echoed those calls, fearing it will do lasting damage to its electoral prospects.
“Sadly, the Prime Minister’s position has become untenable,” said Conservative lawmaker Andrew Bridgen, a former Johnson supporter. “The time is right to leave the stage.”
Johnson has given a variety of explanations of the parties, ranging from denials that any rules were broken to expressing understanding for the public anger at apparent hypocrisy at the heart of the British state.