Queen to appoint new prime minister at Balmoral for first time in her reign

The Queen is to remain in Scotland to appoint a new prime minister at Balmoral for the first time in her reign.

The 96-year-old monarch, who has faced ongoing mobility issues, traditionally holds audiences with outgoing and incoming premiers at Buckingham Palace.

But Boris Johnson, who will tender his resignation, and the new Conservative Party leader who will be asked to form a government – either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak – will travel to Balmoral Castle – a 1,000-mile round trip – for the key audiences on Tuesday September 6 instead.

Boris Johnson resignation
The Queen during an audience inviting Boris Johnson to become Prime Minister in 2019 (Victoria Jones/PA)

It is believed to be the first time in the monarch’s 70 years on the throne that she has conducted the historic duty away from Buckingham Palace, and raises fresh concerns about her health.

In 1963, Harold Macmillan resigned as PM while recovering from surgery. His private secretary went to the Palace and afterwards the Queen visited Mr Macmillan in hospital in London, but his successor, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, was appointed at Buckingham Palace.

One hundred and 14 years ago, the Queen’s great-grandfather, Edward VII, was on holiday and refused to interrupt his plans to appoint a new prime minister.

Herbert Asquith was forced to travel to Biarritz in the south of France in 1908, where the King asked him to form a government during an audience in a hotel room.

The Queen, who celebrated her Platinum Jubilee this year, is on her traditional summer break in the Scottish Highlands, but has faced health issues since last autumn.

She now regularly uses a walking stick, but rallied to appear on the Buckingham Palace balcony for her Jubilee.

Audience at Windsor Castle
The Queen is rarely seen on engagements outside Windsor Castle (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Her traditional welcome to Balmoral Castle earlier in August was held privately for her “comfort”.

A Palace spokesman confirmed the decision on Wednesday and it is understood it was taken at this stage in order to provide certainty for the Prime Minister’s diary.

If the Queen had experienced an episodic mobility issue next week and the plan had been to travel to London or Windsor, it would have led to alternative arrangements at the last minute.

The Sun reported at the weekend that the Prince of Wales had been making regular morning visits to see his mother as she continues to struggle with her mobility, with the unplanned visits considered highly unusual.

Former BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said: “The fact officials can’t be sure the Queen will be well enough to travel next week is yet another reminder of her advanced age and increasing frailty.

“Despite this, the Queen remains determined to carry out her core duties.

“Appointing a new prime minister is not something that can easily be passed to Prince Charles, a king-in-waiting.”

Conservative leadership bid
The Queen will hold audiences with Boris Johnson and the new prime minister at Balmoral Castle (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Buckingham Palace declined to give an ongoing commentary on the monarch’s health.

The audiences will take 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.

Mr Johnson said arrangements for the handover to the new prime minister will be down to the Queen and “fit totally around her and whatever she wants”.

The politician told reporters during a visit to Barrow-in-Furness: “I don’t talk about my conversations with the Queen, no prime minister ever does.”

Audience at Balmoral Castle
The Queen in the Drawing Room at Balmoral Castle where the audiences will take place (Andrew Milligan/PA)

In 2019, after a private audience with the Queen in which he accepted her invitation to form a government and become PM, Mr Johnson revealed to a reporter that the monarch had quipped: “I don’t know why anyone would want the job.”

The Queen will also hold a virtual Privy Council meeting the following day, rather than an in-person one, where the new PM will be sworn in as First Lord of the Treasury among other business.

During her 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.

Chelsea Flower Show
The Queen used a a buggy to travel around the Chelsea Flower Show in May (Paul Grover/Daily Telegraph/PA)

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

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

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.

Either Ms Truss or Mr Sunak will be the 15th prime minister of the Queen’s reign.

After a new premier has been appointed, the Court Circular will record that “the Prime Minister kissed hands on appointment”.

This is not literally the case, and it is usually a handshake.