Former Prime Minister Lord Salisbury called Balmoral Castle “Siberia”.
Another, Benjamin Disraeli, complained that “doing the government of the country 600 miles from the metropolis doubles the work”.
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Tony Blair described his annual visit as ‘a vivid combination of intriguing, surreal and downright bizarre’ – and said he only survived the weekend with the help of strong booze.
Her youngest child, Leo, was conceived at home after Cherie Blair left her birth control in London due to the ‘sheer embarrassment’ of staff unpacking her toiletry bag the year before.
And David Cameron, on the other hand, remembers the “happiness” of leaving behind his close protection team as he trekked through the hills with his wife Samantha.
“The Queen wants you to have complete solitude,” he wrote.
But Liz Truss will not meet the monarch for a relaxed summer break, as her predecessors did.
Instead, the new Tory leader will fly to Aberdeenshire to be officially appointed prime minister – an event that usually takes place at Buckingham Palace.
This is called the “kiss of the hands” and lately only involves a bow or bow and a handshake.
The hearing is expected to last half an hour, although Gordon Brown’s appointment in 2007 was followed by a “friendly and professional” discussion lasting 58 minutes.
Clement Attlee’s meeting with King George VI in 1945 was rather brief due to the shyness of the two men. After an awkward silence, Mr. Attlee opened the conversation by saying: “I won the election.”
“I know,” replied the monarch. “I heard it on the six o’clock news.”
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Visits by Prime Ministers to the private castle in the Scottish Highlands date back to the reign of Queen Victoria and usually take place over a weekend in early September.
The Balmoral Estate was purchased by Prince Albert for his wife in 1852 and houses monuments to Victoria’s wife, children and close friend and servant John Brown.
The current queen invites guests to use her highland ponies to explore the hills and glens. Grouse shooting, deer hunting and salmon fishing are also offered.
The highlight of the Prime Minister’s holiday is the ‘Bothy Barbeque’, previously presided over by the Duke of Edinburgh and held in a stone hut originally built for shepherds.
“The Queen drives you at breakneck speed across the moor to a couple,” David Cameron wrote in his autobiography.
“The Duke of Edinburgh is outside, tongs in hand, smoke rising from a row of sizzling grouse. And then the two of them cook and serve you dinner.
“Literally, the Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms tops up your drinks, cleans your plates and does the dishes.”
Historian Ben Pimlott described Margaret Thatcher’s presence at such a gathering as follows: “Monarch and consort preparing sausages for the bewildered Prime Minister and her husband on a windswept hill – each couple trying desperately to be informal .”
Mrs. Truss will probably have to survive in office until next September if she is to receive such an invitation.
His visit to Balmoral, however, is an opportunity to initiate a relationship that some of his predecessors have found instructive and invaluable.
Ben Pimlott describes the Queen’s role as that of ‘constitutionally sanctioned counselor and therapist… the only person a prime minister speaks to whom he knows the trust will not be abused’.
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For 70 years, it’s been an event that has always gone off without a hitch – car back and forth between Downing Street and Buckingham Palace, the circus of the handover taking place in less than two hours.
Moving it 500 miles north of Balmoral will add another kind of drama to the proceedings.
The dramatic backdrop of the Scottish Highlands means the weather is likely to play its part, probably for the first time.
No 10 and the Palace will be keeping their eyes on a rainy and potentially disruptive forecast which could see times change later in the day.
But while the setting is more rural, more remote and the journey is certainly longer, the official ceremony at the center of it all will remain the same, as the monarch says goodbye to her 14th prime minister and welcomes her 15th.
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The “kiss of the hands”, as described in the court circular, will take place, even if today it is a handshake.
The sense of continuity that the Queen is famous for will be on full display again, even though the ceremony is taking place in what is, in essence, her holiday home.
I don’t think those involved would regret having had to deviate from the usual travel plans, obviously because of the respect they have for the Queen, but also because of the more subtle message that her role in the handover will convey .
At a time when there have been understandable concerns about her health, we will see again how, even at 96, she is determined to carry out her official responsibilities.
And that’s especially important right now. In times of political uncertainty and with the crisis in the cost of living, some still see in it a stable and reassuring presence.
In the past, there was a reluctance to talk about change and transition when it came to the Queen’s duties.
This has been replaced with a more sensible approach within the Palace.
Yes, the plans will have to be adjusted and yes, sometimes they will have to tell us about it.
But all this so that the Queen can continue to work, at a pace that is sustainable for her, and today it will mean that she can once again fulfill one of her most important constitutional roles.
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