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The Queen

The Queen’s role in politics as the UK looks set for a General Election

Michael Garnett via Flickr CC

It looks as if the UK is headed to the polls on December 12th 2019 after the House of Commons backed the call from the government of Boris Johnson for a General Election. It will be the first time British voters have cast their ballots in December for almost a century. And it also raises questions over how the traditional royal Christmas will affect this very unusual political turn of events. Here’s a quick look at the possible royal role in the political activities of the coming months.

Invitation to form a government

The Queen usually receives the leader of the winning party in a General Election on the morning after the poll has taken place. That would mean a trip to Buckingham Palace on Friday 13th December for a politician with a majority and in a position to form a government.

However, given how tumultuous political life in the UK has been recently, there is no certainty that any party leader will be able to make that trip. If voters don’t pick a clear winner then negotiations will have to begin between parties to try and form some kind of coalition. That could take hours, days or even weeks which could mean a longer wait in London for the Queen at Christmas or perhaps a trip to Norfolk for a potential Prime Minister.

The Queen’s Christmas Speech

The traditional broadcast made by the Queen to the Commonwealth on Christmas Day itself is a non political event. However, it is often a chance for Her Majesty to reflect on the mood of the country and offer her own words of comfort and advice.

It’s usually recorded well in advance of Christmas Day which could mean some rather clever writing this year should the Queen want to make reference to the frustration that many of her fellow citizens have felt over a year dominated by Brexit.

The State Opening of Parliament

Once the Queen has invited someone to form a government then it’s time for carriages and crowns again. A new government means a new parliamentary session and that means another State Opening of Parliament.

Even though the Queen, accompanied by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, oversaw this traditional and important ceremonial event on October 14th 2019, that is all history now. A new administration, even if led by Boris Johnson, will have to set out its own agenda once more. Which means another trip to the Palace of Westminster for Her Majesty and another Queen’s Speech.

A State Opening following a general election usually takes place between 2 to 3 weeks after voters have gone to the polls if, and it’s a substantial if this time round, a government had been formed immediately after the ballot. Should the Queen be in a position to invite someone to be Prime Minister on December 13th, that would mean a State Opening in the first weeks of January

The Queen’s Christmas Diary

So let’s check diaries. The Queen spends Christmas at Sandringham and usually travels there by train in the days leading up to the festivities. Last year she headed to her Norfolk home on December 20th but it’s unclear whether she might delay any departure this year if negotiations were still going on in the instance of this election producing no clear winner.

Parliament itself is set to be in recess from December 21st 2019 until January 5th 2020 for its Christmas break. However, any administration would want to get to work as soon as possible which could signal a State Opening of Parliament in the very first days of the New Year.

Traditionally, the Queen stays at Sandringham until after the anniversary of her accession and the death of her father, King George VI, on February 6th. However, should parliament be placed to begin its work again as 2020 gets under way, there is little doubt that Her Majesty would travel to London to oversee the State Opening.

The other question will be whether she wears the Imperial State Crown. For the October 2019 opening, the Queen chose the King George IV Diadem with the Crown placed on a table by her side. However, following the last snap general election, in 2017, she decided against any regalia and attended instead in day dress, again with the Crown on a table near to her as she made the Queen’s Speech.

About author

Lydia is a writer, blogger and journalist. She's worked in the media for over twenty years as a broadcast reporter, producer and editor as well as feature and online writer. As well as royals and royal history, she's a news junkie and podcaster.