The Queen today expressed her sympathy for Matt Hancock as she welcomed Boris Johnson back to Buckingham Palace for her first in-person weekly audience with the Prime Minister since March last year.
Mr Johnson met with the monarch at the palace after more than a year of conducting the audiences by telephone, with the pair last meeting face-to-face 15 months ago on March 11, just before the first coronavirus lockdown.
This afternoon’s meeting got off to a surprising start as the Queen immediately talked to Mr Johnson about the Health Secretary, referring to him as ‘poor man’.
The monarch told Mr Johnson it was ‘very nice to see you again’ and the premier replied: ‘Lovely to see you again. It has been 15 months…’
The Queen then said: ‘Has it really? It is most extraordinary, isn’t it? I have just been talking to your Secretary of State for Health, poor man, he came to the privy council. He is full of…’
Mr Johnson interrupted and suggested ‘full of beans’ as the Queen then continued: ‘He thinks that things are getting better.’
Mr Johnson replied: ‘Well, they are…’
The expression of sympathy from the monarch comes after Mr Hancock found himself at the centre of a political firestorm after Dominic Cummings published text messages from the PM in which Mr Johnson referred to the Cabinet minister as ‘totally f****** hopeless’.
The Queen welcomed Boris Johnson back to Buckingham Palace today as she held her first in-person weekly audience with the Prime Minister since before the first coronavirus lockdown
Mr Johnson met with the monarch at the palace this afternoon after more than a year of conducting the audiences by telephone
The Queen told Mr Johnson at the start of their meeting she had ‘just been talking to your Secretary of State for Health, poor man, he came to the privy council’
The Queen has held a weekly audience with the prime minister of the day throughout her reign to discuss Government matters.
The audience, which is held in an ‘Audience Room’ in the palace, is entirely private.
The in-person meetings were cancelled in March last year as the pandemic worsened. From March 18 the Queen and Mr Johnson switched to speaking on the phone as she prepared to socially distance herself at Windsor Castle.
The Queen retreated to her royal residence in Berkshire just before the first lockdown at the end of the month in what was dubbed HMS Bubble.
Mr Johnson and the Queen were pictured speaking by phone from Downing Street and Windsor on March 25 last year.
The pair had seen each other at the G7 summit in Cornwall earlier this month but today’s meeting represented a significant moment as one of the fixtures of modern British political life resumed.
Today’s meeting is believed to be the first time the Queen has been at Buckingham Palace for six weeks since she attended the State Opening of Parliament in May.
In a 1992 documentary filmed to mark her 40th year on the throne, the Queen – the nation’s longest reigning sovereign – gave her view on the importance of her meetings with her prime ministers.
‘They unburden themselves or tell me what is going on or if they have any problems, and sometimes I can help in some way as well,’ she said.
‘They know I can be impartial and it is rather nice to feel one is a sponge.
‘Occasionally one can put one’s point of view and perhaps they have not seen it from that angle.’
As head of state, the Queen is politically neutral and acts on the advice of her Government in political matters, but her political knowledge is immense.
US President Joe Biden and Jill Biden joined the Queen and other senior members of the Royal Family at a G7 summit earlier this month
The leaders of the G7 posed with the monarch for a tradition G7 family photo when they met at the Eden Project in Cornwall
Throughout her reign, she has received weekly briefings from the prime minister of the day, and dozens of government documents pass across her desk every week for formal approval.
The meeting with Mr Johnson comes after the Queen played a prominent role at the G7 summit in Carbis Bay near St Ives earlier this month.
The monarch, 95, and other members of the royal family hosted a glitzy reception for world leaders at the Eden Project as she welcomed the likes of US President Joe Biden and US First Lady Jill Biden.
The Bidens had spoken at length with the Queen at the reception, with both parties smiling broadly at one another.
Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, also joined the G7 leaders at the reception.
The leaders of the G7 nations also joined the Queen for a socially-distanced family photo.
A few days later the Queen then welcomed Mr and Mrs Biden to Windsor Castle for tea before the US President then headed to Brussels for a Nato summit.
The US President and First Lady were welcomed with a reduced parade in the grounds of the castle.
President Joe Biden and Jill Biden speak with Queen Elizabeth II. Mr Biden previously met with The Queen in 1982, according to the White House
The Queen later welcomed the US President and the First Lady to Windsor Castle for tea after the G7 summit in Cornwall
They then entered the castle through the Sovereign’s Entrance to enjoy tea with the Queen.
Mr Biden told reporters after the meeting that the ‘very gracious’ Queen ‘reminded me of my mother’.
‘I don’t think she’d be insulted but she reminded me of my mother, the look of her and just the generosity,’ he said.
‘We had a long talk and she was very generous.’