It did seem rather a lot of trouble to go to just to acquire a new set of place mats

The Queen became the first monarch to attend a cabinet meeting in peacetime since the 18th century but if you’ve had audiences with prime ministers for as long as she has, you can’t fail to have a view

Share
Related Topics

It’s the question that has taxed loyal subjects through the centuries. What do you give the monarch who has everything? On the face of it, 60 place mats for the smaller dinner party, even if gold-edged prints of as many different views of her London palace, seems a slightly pedestrian answer.

But that’s what the Queen wanted. And the mats, made by the Gloucestershire firm of Lady Clare (product placement to die for) are “heat-resistant to 100 degrees”, according to a Downing Street briefing that was long on irrelevant details and short on the really gripping stuff. Like what she said to George Osborne before she became the first sovereign since George III (before he went mad and when Britain was losing the American War of Independence) to attend a Cabinet.

Luckily an army of audio technicians and lip-readers was deployed to deconstruct bits of the tastefully muted video of David Cameron introducing his ministers to the sovereign before she heard ministers discuss the Justice and Security Bill, Afghanistan and (of course) the new law on royal primogeniture.

After accepting a deep curtsey from Theresa May, she moved on to Osborne, who saw no need to bow (save for a perfunctory nod after the handshake). Given that Osborne’s paternal ancestors hail from what his biographer calls the “clammy sod” of Wexford and Tipperary, it’s tempting to think this an act of Irish crypto-nationalism – even though the first Osborne baronets were fully paid up members of the Protestant ascendancy.

Cameron had forgotten to remind Her Maj who the Chancellor was. “Someone?” she asked. If you’ve been introduced to about a million people during your six decades on the throne, such lines come easily. But several of the nearby Secretaries of State unleashed peals of laughter as if it was the best joke they had heard in years. According to forensic study of the footage she then proceeded to ask Osborne – at one point using the word “regrettable” –about the sale of “gold bars”.

“Some of them were sold,” Osborne politely acknowledged, “but we still have some left.”

This was a  faint echo of her third PM’s (Macmillan) complaint that her eighth (Thatcher) had sold the “family silver”. But given that he sold gold reserves and created a financial services authority which she remarked on her recent visit to the Bank of England lacked “teeth”, this also raises the question of whether the Queen has got it in for her 11th, Gordon Brown.

If so, it’s unlikely to be – despite the bright blue coat she sported yesterday – because of excessive partisanship. Her relationship with Harold Wilson, according to the late Ben Pimlott, who wrote the best biographies of both, was rather warmer than with either Margaret Thatcher or Edward Heath.

Although royal experts were wheeled out yesterday to spout the usual guff about how non-political she is, if you’ve had intimate weekly audiences with prime ministers for as long as she has – her first PM, Churchill, was the  last to have led a coalition government – you can’t fail to  have a view or two. After all, she played a still much debated role in 1963 in replacing Macmillan with another, Douglas-Home –as it happens, the last two old Etonians to hold the office before Cameron. You don’t have to be a monarchist to wonder what she really thinks of the present lot.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: English Teachers with QTS nee...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Science Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Science Teachers needed for s...

Geography Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Geography Teachers needed tha...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The campaign has left much of Scotland divided  

Scottish referendum results: A change is gonna come – it’s GOT to come

James Bloodworth
The Prime Minister David Cameron speaks outside Downing Street after the result of the Scottish Referendum  

Scottish referendum results: And now for the West Lothian question – but resolving it won’t be easy

Rosie Millard
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week