Skip to main content

Queen attends Cabinet meeting -- a first in more than a century

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 11:03 AM EST, Tue December 18, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A large part of the British Antarctic Territory is named for Queen Elizabeth II
  • She attends her first Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street
  • As head of state, the queen has to remain strictly neutral
  • The visit is part of her diamond jubilee celebrations

Read a version of this story in Arabic.

London (CNN) -- British ministers had a special guest in their midst during their Cabinet meeting Tuesday: Queen Elizabeth II.

It was a historic occasion because it is thought to mark the first time a monarch has attended such a session since Queen Victoria more than a century ago.

Read more: Diamond jubilee complete coverage

The monarch, wearing blue, was greeted at the door of 10 Downing Street by Prime Minister David Cameron.

The queen has not attended a Cabinet meeting before now because her involvement in Britain's political life is generally formal or ceremonial.

What do you buy a queen for Christmas?
Open Mic: Messages to the Queen

Her role is clear: "As Head of State The Queen has to remain strictly neutral with respect to political matters, unable to vote or stand for election," according to the British Monarchy's website.

Her presence as an observer Tuesday coincides with the end of the yearlong celebration marking her 60 years on the throne. During that time, the United Kingdom has had 12 prime ministers.

The session lasted 90 minutes, during which ministers presented her with a gift they personally paid for to mark her diamond jubilee.

The queen also visited the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Tuesday, where she was paid a rather unusual tribute: the naming after her of 169,000 square miles of the Antarctic.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the southern part of the British Antarctic Territory had been designated "Queen Elizabeth Land" in honor of her 60-year reign.

The previously unnamed territory is nearly twice the size of the United Kingdom and about a third of the whole land mass of the British Antarctic Territory, Hague said.

The queen's visit to the Foreign Office, only her second in the past six decades, is the final official engagement of her busy jubilee year.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
ADVERTISEMENT