The Queen will be returning to Windsor Castle in a matter of weeks, with Buckingham Palace only used for ‘select events’.
Her Majesty and her husband Duke of Edinburgh will first spend time privately at Sandringham when they leave Balmoral next week, Buckingham Palace confirmed.
She had been spending summer at her retreat in Aberdeenshire amid speculation that she would not return to the capital amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokesperson said: “The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will depart Balmoral Castle during the week commencing September 14 to spend time privately on the Sandringham Estate.
“Subject to the finalisation of the autumn programme, Her Majesty’s intention is to return to Windsor Castle in October and to resume the use of Buckingham Palace for selected audiences and engagements.
“These plans will be kept under review and will of course be subject to all relevant guidance and advice.”
This follows speculation in late August that the Queen would remain at Windsor Castle in Berkshire for the rest of the year, only returning to London to carry out engagements.
A royal source told the Sunday Times in August that the 94-year-old monarch would not reside at the palace but would likely “commute” to the capital if it is safe to do so, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Today’s statementappears to confirm this, as the Queen prepares to begin using Buckingham Palace again for royal engagements only.
It is believed that this will be the longest absence the Queen has been away from Buckingham Palace during her 68-year reign.
The Queen usually returns to London in October after enjoying her annual summer break in Balmoral.
Both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had been self-isolating at Windsor since March 19 – four days before the UK went into lockdown.
She had reportedly been told that the close-knit “bubble” of household staff who had been working with her in Windsor was the safest way to reduce the risk of her contracting coronavirus.
A royal source said: “There is a desire to get Buckingham Palace up and running again as a working palace, but only if all the relevant advice suggests that it is appropriate to do so.”
The head of state travelled with Philip to Balmoral in early August for her traditional summer break.
The couple went ahead with their annual stay in the Highlands after spending the previous four months at their Berkshire residence with a reduced household dubbed HMS Bubble.
The trip to Balmoral was the first time the Queen and Philip travelled away from Windsor since relocating from Buckingham Palace on March 19.
Future arrangements for the 99-year-old duke are still being discussed.
It is not yet known whether Philip will remain on the Sandringham estate when the Queen returns to Windsor, or whether he will join the monarch at the Berkshire castle where they spent the lockdown.
According to its website, guided tours of the grounds, exhibitions and ballroom at Balmoral will be available from Saturday October 3.
It is believed that plans are being drawn up so the Queen can safely attend commemorations at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday in November.
But until the threat of coronavirus is eliminated the Queen will apparently not return to Buckingham Palace.
However, it is thought that she will spend her Christmas break at Sandringham in Norfolk as usual.
The news comes after reports that the coronavirus risk means the Queen may not be allowed to return to her public duties “for years” to come.
Royal biographer Andrew Morton, 66, told The Sun in May that he feared the Queen may only be seen on TV or video links rather than in public due to the risk to herself and Prince Philip.
The writer, who penned Diana: Her True Story in 1992, told the paper: “It’s terribly sad but I can’t see how the Queen can resume her usual job. The Covid-19 virus isn’t going away soon and will be with us for months, if not years.
“It would be far too risky for the Queen to start meeting people on a regular basis.”
The stringent measures are expected to upset The Queen as she has said in the past that she has “to be seen to be believed”.
Buckingham Palace is usually open to the public for 10 weeks each summer and selected dates during winter and spring.
But due to the coronavirus pandemic it has remained closed to visitors after a decision made by the Royal Collection Trust “because of the operational challenges of social distancing” in their palaces and properties.
The Trust – which is owned by the Queen and manages palace tourism – says it will make a £30million loss this year as palaces are closed.
In July it was revealed that 250 members of the Queen’s staff faced redundancy.