The Queen meets incoming Prime Minister Liz Truss

The Queen, 96, is pictured leaning on a walking stick as she meets new Prime Minister Liz Truss from the comfort of her own home in Balmoral amid health fears

  • Queen invites newly-elected leader of the Conservative Party, Liz Truss, to become prime minister
  • Historic audience is the first time monarch has carried out key duty at her retreat in Aberdeenshire
  • Today is also first time Her Majesty has been pictured since she was seen arriving at estate on July 21

The Queen used a walking stick as she welcomed Liz Truss at an audience at Balmoral Castle in Scotland today, where she invited the newly-elected leader of the Conservative Party to become prime minister.

The historic audience was the first time that the 96-year-old monarch, who has faced ongoing mobility issues, has carried out the key duty at her retreat in Aberdeenshire, rather than at Buckingham Palace. Today is also the first time Her Majesty has been pictured since she was seen arriving at the estate on July 21 for her summer holiday. 

A statement from Buckingham Palace issued at 1pm today said: ‘The Queen received in Audience The Right Honourable Elizabeth Truss MP today and requested her to form a new Administration. Ms Truss accepted Her Majesty’s offer and kissed hands upon her appointment as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury.’

The Court Circular normally records that ‘the Prime Minister kissed hands on appointment’. However, this is not literally the case, and it is usually a handshake – as it was with Miss Truss today. 

The meeting took place in Balmoral’s green-carpeted Drawing Room, which has matching green sofas, a leaf-patterned fabric chair, an open fire and a number of equine-themed antique paintings on the walls. 

Miss Truss, 47, has become the third female prime minister in British history – following in the footsteps of Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May – with all three serving during the Queen’s 70 years on the throne.

Earlier, Miss Truss swept onto the Queen’s private Scottish estate in a chauffeur-driven car with her husband Hugh O’Leary, one day after being declared the winner in the Tory leadership contest.

Queen Elizabeth II leans on a walking stick as she welcomes Liz Truss during an audience at Balmoral in Scotland today

The Queen invites Liz Truss to become Prime Minister and form a new government as they meet at Balmoral today

The Queen is pictured today in Balmoral’s green-carpeted Drawing Room, where the meeting with Liz Truss took place

This official announcement from Buckingham Palace today recorded that the Queen has carried out the historic audience

Liz Truss meets the Queen’s Equerry Lieutenant Colonel Tom White and Private Secretary Sir Edward Young at Balmoral today

A car with newly elected leader of the Conservative party Liz Truss arrives at Balmoral for an audience with the Queen today

Liz Truss landed at Aberdeen Airport today ahead of officially taking the reins of power from Boris Johnson today

Like her predecessor Mr Johnson, who earlier tendered his resignation to the Queen, she was welcomed by the Queen’s private Secretary Sir Edward Young and her Equerry Lieutenant Colonel Tom White.

Miss Truss said ‘good afternoon’ as she first shook hands with the Equerry, who gestured towards Sir Edward and the aide introduced himself before the politician and her husband were ushered inside.

Queen’s love of Balmoral as private retreat is used for historic PM audience 

The Queen is said to never be happier than when she is staying on her beloved Balmoral estate.

Balmoral Castle – her private Scottish home in Aberdeenshire – was handed down to her through generations of royals after being bought for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852.

Victoria described Balmoral as her ‘Heaven on Earth’, and it is where she sought solace after Albert’s death.

The turreted grey stone castle by the River Dee is surrounded by fir-clad hills, lochs and grouse moors.

The Queen’s traditional annual stay at the main property – after a break at Craigowan Lodge on the estate in July – usually stretches through August and September and into October.

Princess Eugenie, the Queen’s granddaughter, once described Balmoral as the most beautiful place on the planet. ‘Walks, picnics, dogs – a lot of dogs, there’s always dogs – and people coming in and out all the time,’ she said.

Years of royal memories have been forged at Balmoral, including family barbecues – where the late Duke of Edinburgh did the cooking and the Queen the washing-up. Eugenie had added: ‘It’s a lovely base for Granny and Grandpa, for us to come and see them up there; where you just have room to breathe and run.’

Each morning, a lone piper traditionally plays below the Queen’s bedroom window. Prime ministers and first ministers usually visit the monarch and stay for short periods, but the Queen has never before in her long reign appointed a PM at Balmoral, with Liz Truss the first.

Former prime minister David Cameron once said there was not much ‘chillaxing’ – chilling out and relaxing – there, with the royals spending their time on outdoor pursuits. At royal residences, servants meticulously unpack luggage for guests.

Cherie Blair revealed in her autobiography that her son Leo was conceived at Balmoral when she left her contraception at home out of embarrassment during her annual weekend stay there with husband and then PM Tony Blair.

‘In 1998 – I had been extremely disconcerted to discover that everything of mine had been unpacked,’ she wrote. 

‘Not only my clothes, but the entire contents of my distinctly ancient toilet bag with its range of unmentionables,’ Mrs Blair added. ‘This year I had been a little more circumspect, and had not packed my contraceptive equipment out of sheer embarrassment. As usual up there, it had been bitterly cold, and what with one thing and another…’

After Philip and Princess Elizabeth married in 1947, they spent part of their honeymoon at Birkhall – a grand hunting lodge on the Balmoral estate since inherited by the Prince of Wales. 

The Queen was staying with her grandsons, William and Harry, at Balmoral when their mother Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

But new Conservative Party leader Miss Truss, who has become the Queen’s 15th PM, has, in the past, called for the monarchy to be abolished.

As a 19-year-old student addressing the 1994 Liberal Democrat conference, she declared ‘We do not believe people are born to rule’ and said she had canvassed opinion from the public who told her ‘Abolish them, we’ve had enough’.

Miss Truss, who has since said her political ideas developed as she grew up, said the Queen was ‘far too polite’ to bring up her previous stance when they met previously.

‘I’ve already met the Queen and she’s been far too polite to raise that issue with me,’ she said during a Sky News debate in August.

Asked whether she would apologise if the Queen did mention it, Miss Truss said: ‘Well, I was wrong to say what I did at the time.’

Asked by the BBC’s Nick Robinson about her previous comments, she said she was a ‘professional controversialist’ in her youth and ‘liked exploring ideas and stirring things up’.

But she added: ‘I began to understand more about why Britain is successful, and part of our success is the constitutional monarchy that supports a free democracy.’

The Queen and Miss Truss have encountered each other on a number of occasions, including at Windsor Castle last October.

As foreign secretary, Miss Truss met the monarch when the Queen greeted a line-up of guests at a Global Investment Summit reception for billionaire business leaders, politicians and tech entrepreneurs.

Miss Truss shook the Queen’s hand, and appeared from the photographs to have performed a small curtsy.

The pair have also met at Privy Council meetings, with Miss Truss having ‘kissed hands upon appointment and received the Seals of Office’ for each of her Cabinet roles.

She became a Privy Counsellor for the first time in 2014 as environment secretary.

They are both Elizabeths – yet while it is the Queen’s first name (as Elizabeth Alexandra Mary), it is actually Miss Truss’s middle name and her first is a similarly-regal Mary, which she has never used.

Balmoral is the Queen’s personal and private property which Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made their Scottish home in the early 1850s.

For the Queen, the estate is associated with happy family holidays and she traditionally spends around eight to 10 weeks, during August, September and early October at her much-loved home, where the royals traditionally enjoy walks, barbecues and outdoor life.

Today’s audience involving Miss Truss followed Boris Johnson’s own audience with the Queen, during which he tendered his resignation as PM.

The Queen travels to her private home in the Scottish Highlands each summer for her annual break, usually staying until October.

During her Platinum Jubilee celebrations, the Queen only travelled to Buckingham Palace twice, first for her Trooping the Colour balcony appearance and then for a finale after the pageant.

She spends most of her time at Windsor Castle, 22 miles from central London, living there during the pandemic and while major renovations take place at Buckingham Palace, and for her comfort.

As head of state, it is the Queen’s duty to appoint the prime minister who leads Her Majesty’s Government.

Liz Truss is greeted by Queen Elizabeth II’s Equerry Lieutenant Colonel Tom White and Sir Edward Young at Balmoral today

Liz Truss arrives at Balmoral for an audience with Queen Elizabeth II today where she was invited to become Prime Minister

Liz Truss is greeted by Queen Elizabeth II’s Equerry Lieutenant Colonel Tom White and Sir Edward Young at Balmoral today

Liz Truss arrives at Balmoral for an audience with Queen Elizabeth II today where she was invited to become Prime Minister

Liz Truss is greeted by Queen Elizabeth II’s Equerry Lieutenant Colonel Tom White and Sir Edward Young at Balmoral today

Liz Truss shakes hands with the Queen’s Private Secretary Sir Edward Young as she arrives at Balmoral today

Liz Truss and her husband Hugh O’Leary are greeted by Queen Elizabeth II’s Equerry Lieutenant Colonel Tom White today

Liz Truss’s husband Hugh O’Leary is greeted by Queen Elizabeth II’s Private Secretary Sir Edward Young at Balmoral today

The Royal Encyclopedia states that the appointment of a prime minister is ‘one of the few remaining personal prerogatives of the sovereign’.

From Winston Churchill to Liz Truss: The Queen meets her 15th prime minister at Balmoral 

The Queen’s 70 years as sovereign has seen 14 prime ministers, from Second World War statesman Sir Winston Churchill to Boris Johnson, and now she has welcomed her 15th.

Political leaders have consistently paid tribute to the monarch for her sage advice and impressive knowledge of home and world affairs during her private weekly audiences with her PMs.

Sir Winston, her first prime minister, is thought to be her favourite. He greeted the young, grieving monarch back on British soil after her sudden return from Kenya on the death of her father, King George VI.

When Sir Winston retired in 1955, the Queen sent him a hand-written letter telling him how much she missed him and how no successor ‘will ever for me be able to hold the place of my first prime minister’. Sir Winston had nurtured her through the early years, giving her invaluable advice.

The Queen’s relationship with the starchy Sir Anthony Eden was certainly more formal, while Harold Macmillan was an urbane figure in contrast to the monarch who is a countrywoman at heart.

However, on one occasion, rather than discussing affairs of state at one of their audiences, the Queen and Mr Macmillan could be seen huddled over a transistor radio as US astronaut John Glenn was hurtling through space.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home reportedly met with royal approval. An aide said: ‘He was an old friend. They talked about dogs and shooting together. They were both Scottish landowners, the same sort of people, like old schoolfriends.’

Harold Wilson endeared himself to the Queen. ‘They got on like a house on fire,’ one long-standing member of the Labour Party said. He used to join members of the royal family for riverside picnics at Balmoral.

However, Sir Edward Heath is said to have struggled with small talk and their weekly audiences have been described as ‘frosty’.

James Callaghan managed to establish a warm rapport. He said about the Queen: ‘One of the great things about her is that she always seems able to see the funny side of life. All the conversations were very enjoyable.’

But things were very different with Margaret Thatcher, who reportedly found the traditional September weekend at Balmoral painful.

One observer wrote: ‘A weekend in the country with aristocrats who enjoy riding, shooting, sports and games is Thatcher’s idea of torture. But her dread of the weekend receded as the two women became somewhat more comfortable with one another.’

Baroness Thatcher also could not abide the charades that she was expected to play after dinner at Balmoral and the Queen later, at a gathering of six of her premiers, joked about ‘the party games which some of you have so nobly endured at Balmoral’.

When Baroness Thatcher died in April 2013, the Queen took the unusual step of attending her ceremonial funeral – a personal decision and an indication of the Queen’s respect for her first – and at the time her only – female prime minister.

Sir John Major was popular with the royal family, and the Queen in particular, largely because of the genuine concern he expressed for the welfare of the two young princes William and Harry, first on the divorce of their parents and then on the death of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

Sir Tony Blair was described in some palace quarters as a ‘head of state-in-waiting’, and there were courtiers who were not happy by what they saw as his encouragement of a ‘people’s monarchy’.

Neither Sir Tony, who later revealed details of his private conversations with the Queen in his memoirs, nor Gordon Brown, who was reported to have a good but formal relationship with the royals, were invited to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding in 2011.

A red-faced David Cameron was forced to make a grovelling apology to the Queen in 2014 after his ‘purr-gate’ blunder.

Mr Cameron was caught on camera telling then New York mayor Michael Bloomberg that the monarch had ‘purred down the line’ when he telephoned and told her the result of the Scottish independence referendum.

Theresa May was the second female prime minister of the Queen’s reign – taking up her post in July 2016 in the wake of the Brexit vote, more than a quarter of a century after Mrs Thatcher stood down. Ahead of the Platinum Jubilee, Mrs May told the House of Commons the Queen ‘has seen prime ministers come and go, I was number 13″.

She added: ‘She has greeted us all with charm and consideration and with an impressive knowledge and understanding of the issues of the day.’

Mrs May attempted an impression of the Queen as she recalled how the head of state was driving her to a BBQ in the Scottish Highlands when they came across a large stag. ‘Her Majesty slammed on the brakes and said: ‘What’s he doing here?’.’

She added: ‘She couldn’t understand why he had come down so low. She knew the countryside, she knew its animals.’

Mrs May’s premiership ended in 2019 after she endured a torrid time dogged by the issue of Brexit. She was succeeded by Boris Johnson.

Mr Johnson was only a few hours into his post when he revealed what was said in his audience with the Queen as he accepted her invitation to form the next Government and become PM. 

A correspondent for Euronews NBC said the outspoken politician claimed the monarch quipped ‘I don’t know why anyone would want the job’.

A few months into his premiership, Mr Johnson apologised to the Queen after the Supreme Court ruled his advice to her – imparted by Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg at Balmoral – to prorogue Parliament for five weeks had been ‘unlawful’.

Another apology to Buckingham Palace came from Downing Street amid the pandemic when two staff leaving events were held at Number 10 on April 16 2021, the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.

Sue Gray’s report into the partygate scandal later revealed that staff carried on drinking at Number 10 the night before Philip’s funeral until the early hours, with the last person not leaving until 4.20am.

On April 17, the Queen sat alone in mourning for her late husband amid strict Covid restrictions, with the congregation limited to just 30 people.

Mr Johnson revealed during a Parliamentary tribute to the Queen in her Jubilee year that his regular meetings with the monarch were always ‘immensely comforting, because she has seen the sweep of it’.

His departure has seen the Queen, who is in the Platinum Jubilee year of her reign, welcome her 15th prime minister – Liz Truss.

It says that, in the normal course of events, the monarch does not act on advice nor need to consult anyone before calling upon the leader with an overall majority of seats in the House of Commons to form a government.

But the Queen is guided by constitutional conventions and can seek advice from the outgoing prime minister, any other political leader, senior Privy Counsellors, or whomever she pleases within the limits of prudence and caution.

Mr Johnson’s last duty was to tell the monarch which person has enough support to form the next government – that person being Miss Truss.

The Queen is a constitutional monarch who remains politically neutral. When a potential prime minister is called to see the Queen, she will ask them whether they will form a government. The most usual response is acceptance.

Last weekend, the Queen missed the Braemar Gathering, a popular Highland Games event, for her ‘comfort’.

She has been suffering from episodic mobility problems since last autumn, and the decision was taken last week to ask the outgoing and incoming premiers to make the 1,000-mile round-trip to see the Queen, rather than the other way round.

Mr Johnson caused a certain amount of trouble for the nation’s longest reigning sovereign while he was prime minister.

Elizabeth II, as head of state, and Mr Johnson, as leader of the government, have witnessed turbulent times together of an unprecedented nature, with both Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic occurring during the prime minister’s short tenure.

He may have been the 14th prime minister of her reign, but the Queen is unlikely to forget the ups and downs of his time in charge.

Mr Johnson, who came to power in 2019, succeeded in drawing the Queen into a major constitutional row over the illegal proroguing of Parliament.

He twice broke with convention and talked about their private audiences, and publicly apologised to the Queen and the country over events in Downing Street on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.

Two parties were held in No 10 at a time of national mourning and with England under restrictions banning indoor mixing of households.

The following day, the Queen sat alone – socially distanced from her family – as she mourned her husband.

Mr Johnson was only a few hours into his post after succeeding Theresa May in July 2019 when he revealed what was said in his audience with the Queen as he accepted her invitation to form the next government and become prime minister.

A correspondent for Euronews NBC said the outspoken politician claimed the monarch quipped: ‘I don’t know why anyone would want the job.’

Mr Johnson, who disclosed the remarks during a tour in 10 Downing Street, was told off by staff who warned him not to repeat such things so loudly.

Again in November 2019, he talked about their private audiences, describing their meetings as a ‘very tough interview’.

He made the revelations in an election campaign video filmed in a car on his way to meet the head of state on the day Parliament was dissolved, signalling the start of the general election.

Mr Johnson said: ‘I’m just off to see Her Majesty the Queen, which is always a very tough interview because she always asks the best questions and the question today is: Why are we having this election?’

The monarch is politically neutral and acts on the advice of her government in political matters.

But with 70 years’ experience on the throne, the Queen’s knowledge and experience of matters of state is unparalleled.

Mr Johnson revealed during a Parliamentary tribute to the Queen in her Jubilee year that his regular meetings with the monarch were always ‘immensely comforting, because she has seen the sweep of it’.

The Queen had briefings from Mr Johnson most Wednesdays, usually face to face, and then when the coronavirus outbreak worsened, their audiences were held by telephone.

But former chief aide in No 10 Dominic Cummings claimed Mr Johnson wanted to visit the Queen early in the pandemic despite cases of Covid-19 having hit Downing Street.

Downing Street has flatly denied this.

Mr Johnson ultimately took a 15-month break from his face-to-face meetings after seeing the Queen on March 11 2020.

But Mr Cummings alleged Mr Johnson had wanted to visit her a week later, on March 18 when people in his office were isolating, but had to be convinced of the seriousness of potentially giving the Queen coronavirus.

This was five days before Mr Johnson announced the first lockdown on March 23 and he went on to test positive himself for Covid-19 later that month.

Mr Johnson sparked a major constitutional row during the Queen’s summer holidays in August 2019 amid Westminster’s bitter Brexit battles after asking her to suspend Parliament for more than a month.

The sovereign was duty bound to hold a Privy Council meeting at Balmoral, her private Scottish estate, where, acting on the advice of the prime minister, she approved an order to temporarily close – or prorogue – Parliament for five weeks.

Opposition leaders wrote to the Queen in protest and Commons speaker John Bercow said the move was a ‘constitutional outrage’ designed to stop Parliament debating Brexit.

In the end, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr Johnson’s advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating Parliament.

Mr Johnson apologised to the monarch.

In September 2019, he made the traditional prime ministerial trip to stay at the Queen’s Balmoral estate.

He was joined by his then girlfriend and now wife, Carrie Symonds, who was then expecting their first child together.

Ms Symonds was thought to be the first unmarried partner of a sitting prime minister to stay at the Scottish castle.

In December 2019, the Queen, who was then 93, carried out a state opening of Parliament – just nine weeks after the previous one.

The first in October was branded a sham ahead of the expected election and discourteous to the monarch.

The row over Downing Street parties during lockdown led to Mr Johnson publicly apologising to the Queen in January 2022.

Outgoing prime minister Boris Johnson was greeted by the Queen’s aides before entering Balmoral in Scotland today

Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie are greeted by the Queen’s Equerry Lieutenant Colonel Tom White at Balmoral today

Boris Johnson landed at Aberdeen Airport today ahead of an audience with the 96-year-old monarch at Balmoral

Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks outside 10 Downing Street in London today before leaving for Balmoral

Mr Johnson, who was at Chequers at the time of the parties on April 16 2021 the night before Philip’s funeral, appeared emotional during his on-camera apology, saying he deeply and bitterly regretted that the events had taken place.

Two boozy gatherings were held to mark the departures of James Slack as Mr Johnson’s director of communications and another member of staff.

Sue Gray’s report into the partygate scandal revealed people carried on drinking at No 10 the night before Philip’s funeral until the early hours, with the last person not leaving until 4.20am.

A child’s swing in the garden was damaged by people leaning on it.

The country was in a period of mourning after the death of the duke, and restrictions meant the Queen had to sit socially distanced from her loved ones at Philip’s pared back funeral as she mourned her husband of 73 years.

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