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Queen's birthday: Five times Elizabeth II dropped the veil of neutrality and revealed her political opinions

The Queen might keep her political cards close to her chest but Her Majesty has occasionally let her guard drop

Maya Oppenheim
Thursday 15 December 2016 19:25 GMT
5 times the Queen's veil of neutrality was dropped

As anyone who has sat or slept through the Queen’s Christmas speech will know, Her Majesty keeps her politics hidden from the public eye at all times. Always neutral, never biased, Elizabeth II has never given a press interview and does not vote in the general election. Dubbed “Elizabeth the silent”, the longest reigning monarch in history appears to be devoid of partisan opinions.

The Queen might have a weekly meeting with the Prime Minister but no written record is made of the private meeting and both parties ensure the topics discussed are never disclosed. And despite the fact Her Majesty keeps a diary, we won't a glimpse it for years to come.

But while the Queen might be legally obliged to remain neutral at all times and others are duty-bound to keep their encounters with her a secret, there have of course been occasions when her political views have slipped out. A mere mortal, the Queen has her own views, incentives, and interests.

Here are those rare occasions where the Queen’s political views have come to the fore:

Scottish Referendum

The fact the Queen wanted Scotland to remain in Britain was something of an open secret. During the tense final days of the Scottish referendum campaign, the Queen made an unusual intervention into the political domain. Speaking on her Balmoral estate in Scotland, she said, “Well, I hope people will think very carefully about the future.”

In the aftermath of the news that Scotland would be remaining in the UK, David Cameron also broke public convention and told the then New York mayor Michael Bloomberg that the Queen had “purred down the line” after he informed her of the referendum result. Of course, Cameron was forced to apologise, telling The Andrew Marr Show he felt “extremely sorry and very embarrassed”.

Abu Hamza

According to Frank Gardner, the BBC's Special Correspondent, the Queen was less than pleased about the delay in arresting Hamza. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Gardner recounted a private conversation he’d had with her about the radical Islamist cleric. He said she was upset there had been no way to arrest Hamza and had spoken to the home secretary about the issue. The BBC also apologised for “breach of confidence”.

Nicknamed “Hook” by the tabloids, Hamza could normally be glimpsed in the same corner outside Finsbury Park Mosque in North London. He has since been sentenced to a life in prison in the US without the possibility of parole.

Watch the difference between how Cameron and Corbyn mark the Queen's birthday at PMQs

Colonial Days

Speaking in Philadelphia in July 1976 during the bicentennial celebrations of American independence, the Queen revealed why she thought Britain had lost its American colonial outposts. In her own words, “We lost the American colonies because we lacked the statesmanship to know the right time and the manner of yielding what is impossible to keep”.


According to author and broadcaster, Joan Smith, the Queen was not so keen for Turkey to enter the European Union. “I was present when the Queen made a comment that was both reactionary and unconstitutional,” alleges Smith. The commentator claims that she heard the comments on Turkey at a Christmas party at Downing Street.

“The Queen turned to another person in the group and said: 'The EU is getting awfully big with 28 countries.’ They said that, actually, it was 27, 'but we are hoping Turkey will come in soon’, to which the Queen said, 'Oh, we don’t want Turkey to come in for a long time.’”

Apartheid Regime

The Queen was reportedly angered by Margaret Thatcher’s refusal to impose strict sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa. Under the headline, “Queen dismayed by ‘uncaring’ Thatcher", in 1986, The Sunday Times reported on their apparent rift, claiming that it had talked to Michael Shea, the Queen’s former press secretary. It wrote, “The Queen considers the Prime Minister’s approach often to be uncaring, confrontational and socially divisive”. The Palace denied it.

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