The monarch, 93, arrived at Chatham House just 24 minutes after Buckingham Palace issued the bombshell statement from Prince Andrew following days of media scrutiny over his friendship with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
She showed no sign of strain and seemed delighted to present Sir David and Julian Hector, head of the BBC Natural History Unit, with the Chatham House Prize for 2019 for their work to highlight ocean plastic pollution.
Her visit to the Royal Institute of International Affairs had not been announced in advance and there were gasps of surprise and delight as she was introduced to the audience in the packed Joseph Gaggero Hall.
And there was laughter as she told the TV legend: “Sir David, this award recognises your many talents and one can’t help but feel that, for those of us of a certain generation, we can take great pleasure in proving age is no barrier to being a positive influence.”
The annual prize recognises the person, people or organisation deemed to have made the most significant contribution to improving international relations in the previous year.
Sir David and the BBC were honoured for “the galvanising impact of the Blue Planet II series on tackling ocean plastic pollution.”
The Blue Planet II series highlighted the damage caused by discarded plastics to the world’s oceans and marine wildlife. It is estimated that there are more than 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans; resulting in the deaths of 1 million birds and 100,000 sea mammals each year.
Accepting the award, Sir David said: “Never has there been a greater need for international cooperation on international solutions. They won’t be easy to win.
“Politicians have to look to the people who elect them who assume that they will be number one on the list. That cannot remain to be so.
“We are citizens of the world and they must recognise that. And international cooperation, which is the subject of this organisation is of paramount importance.
“If this international organisation considers what we have done in the Natural History Unit has in some way helped spread an awareness of the problems that face the world, that in some way will convince the population of the world that we all belong to one world and just the one world belongs to us, then this award pleases me more than I can say, I am most grateful for it, thank you.”
The award presentation came just after the Queen gave permission for the Duke of York, her second son, to effectively stop being a working royal.
The unprecedented move comes amid the fallout from his “car crash” BBC television interview last weekend in which he tried to clear his name.
In the statement Andrew said it had become clear to him that his friendship with the late billionaire convicted paedophile had caused “major disruption” to the Royal Family’s work.
He also said that he is willing to help “any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations” into the sex offender, who killed himself in prison while facing sex trafficking charges.
The duke said: “It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family’s work and the valuable work going on in the many organisations and charities that I am proud to support.
“Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission.
“I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein. His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.
“I can only hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives.
“Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.”
Epstein died awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges in August.
Andrew has been heavily criticised following his BBC interview with Emily Maitlis in which he discussed his links with the disgraced financier.
Pressure has been mounting in recent days over his royal role, with firms including telecoms giant BT and bank Barclays among a number of multimillion-pound businesses, universities and charities to distance themselves from him.