Apparently, the scene around the Cabinet table in Downing Street on Tuesday was akin to what happens when the headmistress decides to drop in on a noisy class: everyone at their best behaviour — ties nice and straight, and the headboy making sure nobody fluffs their lines, “Good morning ma’m, great to see you.”
It was the day the Queen decided to drop in at a Cabinet meeting to mark her Diamond Jubilee breaking a long historical tradition that the monarch does not get involved in day-to-day political decision-making. It was thought to be the first time in more than 200 years that a monarch had attended peace-time cabinet. The last was George III in 1781.
Not everyone was pleased that she had waded into a domain that constitutionally she is best advised not to.
Rodney Barker, emeritus professor of government at the London School of Economics, called it a “daft” decision. “It muddies the waters. It will mean potentially the Queen will know things she is not supposed to know and hear things she is not supposed to hear,” he said.
Dressed in a deep blue or what the Tory-leaning Daily Mail preferred to call “Conservative blue” dress, the Queen sat in the Prime Minister’s seat with Mr. Cameron to her right and Foreign Secretary William Hague to her left and listened intently as the cabinet discussed a range of upcoming parliamentary business.
Earlier, Mr Cameron offered a “very warm welcome”.
“On behalf of everyone, I would like to congratulate you on a fantastic jubilee year,” he said.
The excitement had begun hours before she arrived with cleaners running around with brooms and laying out the red carpet laid in front of the famous black door of Number 10. Mr. Cameron bounded down the stairs to receive her as she arrived a little after 10 a.m. Mr. Cameron led her inside where she was introduced to ministers who “bowed or curtseyed”. She was escorted to her seat by Mr. Cameron and the supposedly “republican” Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
“She shared jokes with Chancellor George Osborne, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg,” the BBC said.
The meeting, it said, began with the Chief Whip Sir George Young talking about the change to royal succession rules, to allow a first-born girl to become head of state even if she has a younger brother.
When the Queen came out after half an hour, she was richer by 60 table mats: a gift from herministers marking 60 years of her reign.
It was also announced that Part of Antarctica would be named Queen Elizabeth Land in her honour.