Throughout her 66-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II has been decidedly neutral. She doesn’t engage in political matters, nor does she share her political views. She has always, as is customary among British monarchs, left the politics to the politicians.
But Brexit has upturned any conception of normalcy in Britain. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before that applied to Buckingham Palace as well.
It finally did last week, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he would seek to temporarily suspend, or prorogue, Parliament until October 14—an otherwise routine procedure taken at a crucial moment, just weeks before the United Kingdom’s potentially chaotic exit from the European Union.
Though the decision to prorogue Parliament falls squarely on 10 Downing Street, it requires royal approval, which the Queen swiftly granted. But the procedural move was read by some as tacit approval from Buckingham Palace; several headlines framed the suspension as one in which the Queen had a say.
The reality, however, is much more mundane.
What role does the Queen play in British government?
The Queen’s role is largely a ceremonial one, limited to duties such as approving new laws and presiding over the opening and dissolving of Parliament. Every decision she makes on matters of politics is guided by the advice she receives from government ministers (which is why, when Johnson asked the Queen to suspend Parliament, she acceded). Though the Queen holds weekly meetings with the prime minister, during which she retains the right to be consulted on issues of the day, final decisions are, in reality, not up to her.