Queen Elizabeth Just Fulfilled Her Most Important Constitutional Role — and Why 'Kissing of Hands' Is Part of It
The Queen asked Boris Johnson to form a U.K. government on Friday — her 14th Prime Minister since she assumed the throne
Queen Elizabeth fulfilled her most important constitutional role on Friday: appointing a new Prime Minister.
Conservative party leader Boris Johnson traveled to Buckingham Palace just before 11 a.m. for a private audience with the Queen, having secured an 80-seat majority in Thursday's British general election — his party's largest since 1987.
Johnson is the 14th British Prime Minister to have made the short journey across London, following in the footsteps of Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and the Queen's first Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill.
While the Conservative leader claimed the most seats in the election, the British constitution makes it clear that nobody gets the top job in the U.K. until they've traveled to Buckingham Palace.
The election winner is then taken for a private audience with the monarch — in this case, the Queen, 93 — where they're asked if they're able to form a government.
Once the politician replies yes, a ceremony known as the “Kissing of Hands” takes place. In previous generations, this would have required the election winner to physically kiss the hands of the monarch to prove their loyalty. Today, however, it is merely a symbolic term to show that the Government's team has officially been appointed as ministers of the crown.
Friday's meeting lasted more than 35 minutes, after which Johnson returned to Downing Street and received a round of applause from his staff. He now faces the uphill task of securing Brexit — Britain's withdrawal from the European Union — by January 31, which he has repeatedly promised will be completed, “no ifs, no buts, no maybes.”
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The new Prime Minister will next meet the Queen at the state opening of Parliament — likely to take place on December 19 — where the monarch will also deliver her annual Queen's Speech to set out the policies of the new administration.
It will be the second State Opening of Parliament in just two months, and Johnson has already inferred that it will be a “slimmed down” version of the historically glittering event.
So, while the Queen normally attends wearing her full state regalia, she may this time opt for a more dressed-down look.
At a little more than three pounds, it is now slightly too heavy for the monarch to carry, and she is instead likely to again wear the smaller — and lighter — George IV State Diadem.
The magnificent Imperial State Crown will be nearby on a velvet pillow, however: as the ultimate symbol of royalty, it expresses the sovereignty of the monarch and must be present.