For the first time in its history, the UK changes monarch and prime minister in the same week: an unprecedented baptism of fire for new Prime Minister Liz Truss, who will have served just 48 hours under Elizabeth II.
• Also read: LIVE | A first day without Queen Elizabeth II
• Also read: Statement by Prime Minister Liz Truss after the death of Elizabeth II
Over the decades, every British Prime Minister has had time to prepare for the Queen’s eventual death. But ultimately, officially appointed by the Queen just two days before her death, it’s Liz Truss who must take the helm as a new era begins.
The latest official photos of Elizabeth II are from her meeting on Tuesday with the new Conservative Prime Minister, who succeeds Boris Johnson, at Balmoral Castle, Scotland.
“I personally appreciated his sage advice,” Liz Truss told Parliament on Friday. “She generously shared with me her many years of government experience, including in these last few days.”
As Liz Truss assumed power, she knew she would not benefit from any pardon: hours before the Queen’s death on Thursday, she unveiled a massive relief plan to Parliament in the face of rising energy bills.
That debate was cut short when the Prime Minister and those of the opposition discreetly received a note telling them that the Queen’s health had suddenly deteriorated.
Truss was then informed of the Queen’s death around 4:30 p.m. local time, two hours before it was officially announced.
The Tory was the Queen’s 15th Prime Minister, whose 70-year reign began with Winston Churchill at Downing Street.
When she succeeded her father in 1952, she was only 25 years old. The young Elizabeth II had, by her own admission, leaned on Churchill to help her discharge her constitutional duties.
At the end of his reign, it was the prime ministers’ turn to benefit from his experience at their weekly and very private audiences.
Meetings denied to Truss, beginning with a new king, Charles III, who, as heir to the crown, often meddled in political affairs and sparked controversy.
On Friday, in Parliament at their last meeting at the time of her resignation, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to a sovereign who was “more radiant, better informed and more fascinated by politics than ever before”.
Theresa May, who became Johnson’s successor, also praised Elizabeth as the “enormously knowledgeable” queen.
“She was very judgmental of people,” Ms May told the BBC on Friday. “Sometimes it wasn’t just the individual, it was some kind of history of that person or their experiences in certain countries, on certain issues.”
If Queen Churchill felt very close, declassified documents show she was furious at Margaret Thatcher’s refusal to impose sanctions on South Africa during apartheid.
As for her relationship with Boris Johnson, she has been angered at times because, despite her will, the Queen was dragged into a political crisis in September 2019 when the Supreme Court ruled she had been “illegally” denied Parliament’s suspension in the run-up to Brexit be” from the turbulent leader.
But in 1997, at the time of Princess Diana’s traumatic death, the monarchy could count on the quick-wittedness of a prime minister.
Tony Blair, who called Diana a “people’s princess,” helped channel national sentiment as the Queen faced intense popular pressure, and advised the palace to untie a constitutional straitjacket, which was responsible for the shock the people felt was unsuitable.
Tony Blair and his Labor successor, Gordon Brown, paid tribute to the Queen and her sense of duty, as did Thatcher’s successor, John Major.
“She was always extraordinarily knowledgeable,” Major commented, praising the “wisdom” of her advice. “And these meetings with the Queen were always the highlight of a Prime Minister’s week.”