Queen’s comments on climate inaction one of few interventions during long reign

The Queen’s comments suggesting she is irritated by a lack of action in tackling the climate crisis mark a rare intervention in a public debate.

The 95-year-old was filmed referring to the Cop26 climate conference during a trip to Cardiff for the opening of the Welsh Senedd, saying she does not know who is going to the event, which will begin in Glasgow at the end of this month.

In one clip, she appeared to say it is “irritating” when “they talk, but they don’t do”.

As a constitutional monarch, the Queen remains neutral when it comes to political matters and does not express her views on public issues.

But there have been occasions during her long reign when she has appeared to let her personal opinion be known. Here are a few of those:

– 2021: Coronavirus vaccine

The Queen said her Covid-19 jab “didn’t hurt at all” as she encouraged those hesitant about vaccination to “think about other people rather than themselves”.

During a video call with health leaders delivering the vaccine across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, she said her own inoculation in January was “very quick”.

“Once you’ve had the vaccine you have a feeling of, you know, you’re protected, which is, I think, very important,” she said.

he Queen speaks with UK health officials
The Queen called on people hesitant about vaccination to think about others (Buckingham Palace/PA)

– 2019: Brexit

The Queen spoke in favour of individuals seeking “common ground” and “never losing sight of the bigger picture” in what was interpreted as a veiled reference to the toxic mood of the public debate around Britain leaving the EU.

During a speech at the Sandringham Women’s Institute, she also extolled the virtues of “respecting” the other person’s point of view.

– 2016: Chinese officials

The Queen was caught on camera describing Chinese officials as “very rude”.

She was overheard making the uncharacteristically unguarded comments during a discussion with a Metropolitan Police chief, who had spoken of difficulties in organising the State Visit of Chinese premier Xi Jinping.

The Queen quipped that it had been “bad luck” when she heard that Commander Lucy D’Orsi had been assigned to be Gold Commander of the police operation around the visit.

– 2014: Scottish independence referendum

The Queen told a well-wisher that Scots should “think very carefully about the future” in the run-up to the independence referendum.

She reportedly made the remark while meeting a member of the public outside Crathie Kirk, near her Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire.

Later, former prime minister David Cameron had to apologise to the Queen for revealing that she “purred down the line” when he informed her of the result of the referendum.

He let slip her relief at the No vote in a conversation with former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg which was picked up by TV microphones.

The Queen meets Scotland's First Minister
The Queen meets Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Buckingham Palace (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

– 2012: Abu Hamza

The BBC apologised to the Queen for revealing that she had raised concerns with the Government about why radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri had not been arrested.

Security correspondent Frank Gardner told the Radio 4 Today programme about the private conversation he had had with the monarch some years earlier, and the BBC said it and Gardner were sorry for the “breach of confidence”.

Gardner had told Today: “This is a conversation we had a little while ago and she did say that she had mentioned to – I don’t know which home secretary it was at the time – that was there not some law he had broken?

“I wouldn’t say she was necessarily lobbying, that’s not for me to say, but, like anybody, she was upset that her country and her subjects had been denigrated by this man who was using this country as a platform for his very violent, hateful views.”

– 1986: Apartheid regime

A political storm blew up when the Queen was reported to be dismayed by then Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s “uncaring” style of leadership and fearful that her opposition to sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid regime would destroy the Commonwealth.

The reports were described as “without foundation” by Buckingham Palace.

There were rumours of a strained relationship with the Queen throughout Mrs Thatcher’s premiership.

The Queen and Margaret Thatcher
The Queen and Margaret Thatcher at the former prime minister’s 70th birthday in 1995 (David Cheskin/PA)

– 1976: American colonies

During a visit to the US for the bicentennial celebrations of American independence, the Queen commented on the separation of the American colonies from the British crown, saying the founding fathers taught Britain a “very valuable lesson”.

“We lost the American colonies because we lacked that statesmanship to know the right time, and the manner of yielding what is impossible to keep,” she said during a speech in Philadelphia.

That lesson, she said, helped Britain transform “an Empire into a Commonwealth”.

– 1957: Polio vaccine

The Queen made public her decision to have her children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, then aged eight and six, inoculated against polio in order to allay public fears about the potential side-effects of the new vaccine.

– 1956: Suez Crisis

A biography of the Queen by historian Ben Pimlott quoted a senior courtier as saying the Queen thought then premier Sir Anthony Eden “mad” for invading Egypt in the 1956 Suez Crisis.