Queen to appoint UK PM to Balmoral, not Buckingham Palace

Balmoral is where she spends her traditional summer holidays, and the new plans mean the next prime minister will be the one to make the 1,000 mile round trip, rather than the other way around.

“This is a very significant change because if the Queen could travel, she would,” said Craig Prescott, an expert in constitutional law and politics at Bangor University in Wales. “It’s an indication of her mobility issues, and another step in this journey that we’re on, with the Queen doing less and less.”

Who she will meet is still undecided.

Following the announcement of Johnson’s resignation last month, the ruling Conservative Party is choosing a new leader. The winner will be announced on Monday and will become Britain’s next prime minister.

The party’s roughly 200,000 members currently vote between Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, and Rishi Sunak, the former finance minister – with Truss clearly the frontrunner according to the polls.

The winner will be Britain’s 15th ruler of Elizabeth’s reign, along with all others appointed to Buckingham Palace.

It is a dramatic and choreographed event in which the outgoing leader drives through central London to the palace, in a black government car flanked by a police motorcade and followed by TV news helicopters.

After the outgoing leader tenders his resignation and leaves the Queen’s residence, the successor arrives in his own car and is formally instructed by the Sovereign to form a government. (The constitutional monarch has no real political power, but it is one of his remaining “prerogative powers”.)

It’s a formality, but an important moment signaling a new era for the country – a more low-key version of the pageantry and trappings surrounding the inauguration of US presidents.

As part of this ‘theatre of the British Constitution’, soldiers on sentry duty at Buckingham Palace do not salute the new Prime Minister as they enter the courtroom, but only do so as they exit afterward having had their first office meeting with the Sovereign. , Prescott said.

The newly appointed Prime Minister then proceeds directly to 10 Downing St., their new official office and residence, to deliver his first speech as leader of the country.

While the journey from Buckingham Palace only takes a few minutes, the journey from London to Balmoral will take half a day by car or train, or over an hour by plane.

It is unclear how the media will cover the journey to be made by Johnson and his successor.

Image: BRITTANY-POLITICS-CONSERVATIVES
List leader Liz Truss in Birmingham, England last week.Geoff Caddick / AFP-Getty Images

The Queen’s 100% record of receiving the new leader at Buckingham Palace should be seen in the context of her understanding that the Royal Family must be present and active in the public imagination, Prescott said. “We have to be seen to be believed,” the queen once said.

The Queen could decide to delegate that responsibility to her son and heir, Prince Charles, as she has done this year with the official opening of Parliament and some of her Platinum Jubilee events. But the announcement signals that she intends to play the role herself.

Although this is a first for Elizabeth, some of her predecessors have appointed prime ministers outside the capital.

In 1868 Queen Victoria appointed Benjamin Disraeli to Osborne House, a then royal residence on the south coast of the Isle of Wight. In 1885 she appointed her successor, Lord Salisbury, the last Prime Minister of her life, at Balmoral itself.

Perhaps most strikingly, in 1908 King Edward VII appointed HH Asquith to a hotel room in southern France. It had nothing to do with difficult circumstances, Prescott said, the King just didn’t want to interrupt his vacation.

CORRECTION (August 31, 2022, 9:30 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article was incorrect when Disraeli was named prime minister. It was 1868, not 1886.

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