In Depth

Five times the Queen has revealed her political views

The monarch’s private thoughts on Margaret Thatcher, Scottish independence and Abu Hamza

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The Queen has spoken publicly of the importance of finding “common ground” with people of differing views, in remarks seen as a comment on the vitriolic Brexit debate.

Addressing the Sandringham Women’s Institute at an event marking the group’s centenary, the monarch said the values of “patience, friendship, a strong community-focus and considering the needs of others” were “as important today” as they were a century ago.

“Every generation faces fresh challenges and opportunities,” she told the meeting, at West Newton Village Hall in Norfolk, reports Sky News.

Sharing her own tips for dealing with discord, the Queen continued: “I for one prefer the tried-and-tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view, coming together to seek out the common ground, and never losing sight of the bigger picture.

“To me, these approaches are timeless, and I commend them to everyone.” 

Her comments are being interpreted “as a veiled reference to the ongoing debate over the UK’s departure from the EU”, says Sky News. 

Reuters goes even further, suggesting that the speech was intended as “a delicately coded message to Britain’s factious political class”.

Throughout her reign, the Queen has hewed firm to the constitutional status of the monarch as politically neutral.

But over a lifetime in the public eye, there are bound to be a few missteps. Here are four other occasions on which Her Majesty has let slip her private thoughts on political issues:

Scottish independence

In the run-up to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the Queen told a well-wisher on her Balmoral estate in Scotland: “I hope people will think very carefully about the future.”

Although the carefully worded comment was technically neutral, it was widely interpreted as a confirmation of the monarch’s pro-union sentiment.

“The fact the Queen wanted Scotland to remain in Britain was something of an open secret,” according to The Independent. This was all but confirmed when then-prime minister David Cameron was overheard telling New York mayor Michael Bloomberg that the monarch had “purred down the line” when he phoned to tell her the result of the vote.

Cameron later apologised for breaching royal protocol that demands all details of conversations with the monarch be kept private, saying he was “extremely sorry and very embarrassed”.

‘Very rude’ Chinese officials

A rare off-guard comment by the Queen caused a headache for the Palace and the British government in 2016, when she was caught criticising top Chinese officials as “very rude”.

At a garden party in Buckingham Palace, the monarch was heard to say, “oh, bad luck”, after Metropolitan Police Commander Lucy D’Orsi mentioned that she had managed security for the UK visit of Chinese premier Xi Jinping.

When D’Orsi spoke of the difficulties of dealing with Chinese officials, the Queen sympathised, saying: “They were very rude to the ambassador.”

The comments were met with “extreme displeasure” in Beijing, reported The Irish Times.

Thatcher ‘uncaring and socially divisive’

Although the Queen has never discussed her relationship with Margaret Thatcher in public, claims that she disapproved of the then-PM’s policies come from a better source than most - former royal press secretary, Michael Shea.

In 1986, Shea allegedly told The Sunday Times that Her Majesty thought Thatcher did not go far enough with sanctions on apartheid-era South Africa, and considered her policies as prime minister to be “uncaring, confrontational and socially divisive”.

Palace officials denied that the Queen had made any such comments, and Shea himself claimed his words were misconstrued, The Independent reported. Nonetheless, he left his post the following year.

Abu Hamza ‘ought to be arrested’

Prince Charles’ interventions with politicians on behalf of his pet causes are well documented, but the Queen has avoided “meddling” in politics.

One exception emerged in 2012, thanks to the indiscretion of BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner, who revealed that the Queen had told him she discussed the case of radical cleric Abu Hamza with a serving home secretary.

The Royal apparently voiced her dismay that Hamza had not been arrested, although Gardner “stressed that the monarch was not lobbying but ‘merely voicing the views that many have’”, the BBC reported at the time.

The Palace did not explicitly deny that the conversation had taken place, instead saying it did not comment on reports of private conversations involving the Royals as a matter of course.

Gardner and the BBC both apologised for the breach of confidence.

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