I wrote a couple of weeks ago of how the weekend following the election is going to be dominated by commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of VE Day.
One event in particular stood out: a ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on the morning after polling day, which is scheduled to be attended by all the main party leaders and the royal family. This will take place while counting is still going on in a number of constituencies, and when the outcome of the election is likely to be far from clear. The show of unity our politicians will be expected to display publicly will contrast very pointedly with whatever private bartering is already under way.
Someone has already ducked out of the Cenotaph ceremony, however. The Guardian has reported that the Queen has decided to miss the event and lie low at Windsor Castle. What’s more, she’s going to stay there for the whole weekend, missing the other commemorations including a service of remembrance at Westminster Abbey.
The implication is that she wants to avoid any kind of association with the aftermath of the election – symbolic or otherwise. In 2010 she did something similar, indicating that she wasn’t intending to meet any of the party leaders until at least 1pm on the Friday, and once again disappearing off to Windsor Castle.
The Queen has been the monarch for the past 15 general elections: a remarkable statistic, regardless of what you think of her exact constitutional relevance at these occasions. Her private secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt, was careful to keep her well away from the fray in 2010, and will do again this year. The Queen has no role to play in deciding the formation of the next government, of course. If David Cameron wins enough seats to remain prime minister and manages to piece together a new coalition, she doesn’t even have to meet him.
Her only function will be to accept Cameron’s resignation and send for Ed Miliband once he believes he can command the confidence of the House of Commons to form her next government.
She could just as easily see the Labour leader at Windsor Castle as Buckingham Palace, though I doubt Miliband would want to miss out on the traditional drive to the palace and subsequent journey to Downing Street.
My instinct is that coalition negotiations won’t begin in earnest until after the weekend and once the VE Day commemorations are over. As such the Queen could find herself at Windsor Castle much longer than the five days it took the sort out a government in 2010.