Queen’s ‘under-the-radar’ question she always asks prime ministers to catch them out

Queen's Speech: Prince Charles addresses House of Lords

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Queen Elizabeth II, 96, was absent from the annual state opening of Parliament in the House of Lords this week. Britain’s longest-serving monarch normally gives a speech outlining the Government’s agenda for the year. But due to the ongoing mobility issues she is experiencing, Prince Charles took over the ceremonial responsibility for the first time. Boris Johnson pledged to “grow and strengthen the economy” through the measures announced in the speech.

The Tory leader is the 14th Prime Minister of the UK to serve Her Majesty during her 70 years on the throne – an anniversary that will be commemorated next month with the Platinum Jubilee.

Although the Queen is expected to remain politically neutral by convention as head of state, the monarch likes to ask her prime ministers an “under-the-radar” question about their policies, according to royal historian Hugo Vickers, who reflected on her long reign ahead of the Jubilee.

The expert, who knows Her Majesty personally, helped plan her last three jubilees and has helped promote the Platinum Jubilee.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said: “The great thing is of course that we don’t know what they talk about and that is terribly important.

“Now, therefore, they can speak freely.

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“I think you will find that if the Prime Minister comes up with some sort of remark, she might say something like, ‘What exactly is it Prime Minister that makes you think that that might work?’

“She hasn’t said, ‘I don’t like it’, but I think you have to interpret it slightly under the radar, which is quite fascinating.

“But the main thing is that the only time we know anything about what has been said between the Queen and prime ministers is when the Prime Minister tells us that.”

As well as the Queen’s role as the British Sovereign, she is also head of state for 14 other Commonwealth realms around the world.

Mr Vickers praised the monarch’s reputation as a global ambassador for Britain, including during the dozens of foreign visits she has undertaken during her reign.

He said: “She is very assured as a monarch, as a woman.

“She is very assured when she is going out on behalf of Britain and when you think of it, for so many years, she was very young, very attractive.

“She was only 25 When she came to the throne. So, for the first sort of 10 or 15 years, she is really a very young woman.

“Dealing with all these characters like President Dwight Eisenhower and the Shah of Persia and all these sorts of people must have been fascinating.

“And now of course, she has become a sort of matriarch.”

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Mr Vickers claimed that as the Queen has got older, although she may be less physically mobile, her mind remains as sharp as ever.

He said: “She’s got a very good memory. You can’t catch her out.

“Her random access to facts and anecdotes and stories and things is quite extraordinary.”

He added: “She hears everything, sees everything. She is completely on the ball.

“And she quite enjoyed catching people out. I think she and Prince Philip enjoyed that enormously.

“One of her favourite questions, which she asks with good theatrical timing, is ‘Are you sure?’ – well, you’d better be.”

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