UK to name part of Antarctica Queen Elizabeth Land


The Queen met members of the Cabinet before the regular meeting began

Part of Antarctica is to be named Queen Elizabeth Land in honour of the Queen, it was announced as she made a historic visit to Downing Street.

She is the first monarch since 1781 - during the US war of independence - to attend a cabinet meeting.

She met ministers, who gave her a set of 60 place mats, to mark her Diamond Jubilee after 60 years on the throne.

A guide to Queen Elizabeth Land

Map: Queen Elizabeth land, Antarctica

By David Shukman, BBC science editor

  • Twice the size of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth Land is a strange, beautiful and dangerous world of towering mountains and infinite ice
  • Inland is a desolate vision of vast peaks and massive glaciers inching towards the coast. But the shoreline is the scene for the delicate waddling of penguins and the lumbering of elephant seals
  • The profusion of wildlife is among the most astounding of the natural world. Geographically closest to South America, this slice of Antarctica is where the British presence has been strongest for the past fifty years with a long record of brave expeditions and Union flags planted in vicious gales
  • The naming of Queen Elizabeth Land is another reminder - in the centenary year of the death of Captain Scott - that Britain has not forgotten its stake in this distant land

The Queen joined the cabinet while they were updated on a range of forthcoming parliamentary business.

After leaving Downing Street she went with Foreign Secretary William Hague to the Foreign Office, where it was announced that the southern part of the British Antarctic Territory had been named.

The territory, covering 169,000 sq miles - almost twice the size of the UK - was previously unnamed, the Foreign Office said.

"This is a fitting tribute at the end of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee year, and I am very proud to be able to announce it as she visits the Foreign and Commonwealth Office," Mr Hague said.

The Foreign Office said there was a precedent - there was already a Princess Elizabeth Land in East Antarctica, which was named after the Queen before she took the throne, and in 2006 an unnamed mountain range in the Antarctic peninsula was named the Princess Royal Range in tribute to the Queen's daughter.

At the cabinet meeting, the Queen sat in the PM's usual seat - with Mr Cameron and Mr Hague sitting on either side of her.

It is believed to be the first time a monarch has attended peace-time cabinet since George III in 1781. George I ceased to chair cabinet in 1717.

The Queen's father, King George VI, attended war cabinet during the Second World War.

The cabinet, which usually meets weekly, is the group of 20-30 senior ministers who are responsible for running the departments of state and decide government policy

Shorter speech encouraged

After arriving at No 10, the Queen was introduced to each of the government's senior ministers in turn, as they bowed or curtseyed.

She shared jokes with Chancellor George Osborne, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Place mats The cabinet gave the Queen a set of 60 place mats

After the Queen and the cabinet had taken their seats, Mr Cameron formally welcomed her to the meeting and outlined the items of business on the agenda.

It began with Chief Whip Sir George Young talking about the change to royal succession rules, to allow a first-born girl to become head of state even if she has a younger brother.

There were also updates on the forthcoming parliamentary business and Ken Clarke spoke about prospective justice measures.

There was a much larger than usual press pack opposite No 10, although, unlike normal cabinet arrivals and departures, no questions were shouted at the Queen as she arrived and left.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said during cabinet, the Queen "very gently and humorously, on the section regarding the next Queen's Speech encouraged it to be on the shorter rather than longer side"

'She can come any time'

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said all Cabinet ministers had ensured their shoes were "shiny, freshly polished - obviously with the exception of Ken Clarke, who wore his customary Hush Puppies".

"The Queen seemed very relaxed, in a very good mood and took an enormous interest in the Cabinet discussion," he told BBC Radio 4's The World At One.

"I think people were perhaps more considered in what they say, but nevertheless it was a proper discussion on the general economic situation and the inflation figures and Afghanistan."

For constitutional purists this was a mildly troubling encounter which muddied the waters between a hereditary monarch and an elected accountable cabinet.

For many others, it was a unique moment which probably hasn't been seen in peacetime for three centuries.

For the Queen, it was a reminder of where the power lies and how much has been lost from the position she occupies.

Her prerogatives or privileges are now pretty much limited to appointing a prime minister and dissolving Parliament. In both cases, she's severely limited by constitutional conventions.

Rather than ruling, like her ancestors, she reigns - to the delight of many and the irritation of those seeking an elected head of state.

The Queen left the cabinet meeting with 60 table mats, safe in the knowledge that, once again in her long reign, she has made history.

Asked whether she might have enough table mats already before today's gift, Mr Pickles said: "One can never have too many table mats."

He dismissed suggestions from some that the Queen was crossing a constitutional line by attending the cabinet.

"We are her cabinet, we operate for her. She was sat in the seat where the Prime Minister traditionally sits and, given it's her cabinet, she can come any time she wants."

While the Queen is head of state, her involvement in day-to-day political decisions is largely formal.

The prime minister visits her regularly for an audience where he updates her on events, while she is also expected to rubber-stamp ministerial decisions at meetings of the Privy Council.

The Queen plays a central ceremonial role in the state opening of Parliament, when she travels by ornate horse-drawn coach to the House of Lords to read out a speech prepared by ministers unveiling details of their legislative plans.

She also retains the power to appoint the prime minister.

Rodney Barker, professor of government at the London School of Economics, said her attendance at the cabinet was "daft", because "it will mean potentially the Queen will know things she is not supposed to know and hear things she is not supposed to hear".

But Professor Jane Ridley, biographer of Edward VII, disagreed, telling BBC Radio 4's Today it was "testimony of the Queen's ability to elevate the monarchy above politics" that she could attend cabinet.

Former Cabinet Secretary Lord O'Donnell told BBC Radio 4: "I'm sure cabinet want to do this because they want to say thank you. I mean, I've always viewed the Queen as kind-of the ultimate public servant. You think what she's done during her jubilee period and they just want to say thank you."



This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    Blatant Politicising of the Queen, who must know it was and went along with it because She wanted to - Blair and Brown never even got invited to the Royal wedding, I am now from today a Republican.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    Great for Queen and the country.....BUT ...Antarctica dose not belong to anyone!! can a country name part of Antarctica ...that dose not belong to Imperial past -yes but not in present day, Queen Elizabeth 2 -you are a good person but "sun has set over your empire" a long long time ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    What a boring detraction from the failings of the current government to fix the economy and instead just playing up to its own party ideology with a complete disregard of the roles and responsibilities of government in general.

    Waste of time and money.

  • Comment number 441.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    Oh for god's sake, England head of state has always - well nearly always been a King or a Queen, and a damn good job I say. This Queen works harder and longer than most of us because she understands her role which most of the negative people here seem to not understand. If you don't like living in a country with a monarchy then I suggest you go live some where else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    Dell Boy would have the right term to describe Rodney Barker. Unless the cabinet were planning to replace the monarch I don't think there is anything the Queen might learn that she should not from attending cabinet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    So the part of the Brtitish Antartic Territory is now called Brenda? I hope no Womble is daft enough to call themselves that when it makes it into Great Uncle Bulgaria's atlas.

    Some of the sycophancy from Monarchists on this thread is quite overwhelming. I had no idea that people could wave plastic flags, sip Pimms, herumphh about Lefties and type at the same time. Well done you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    There are a lot of she's not elected comments on here and that therefore she shouldnt attend. At the same time though the ministers were never elected to their posts. They were elected to represent their area in parliment. They were never elected to run transport or schools or the armed forces or voters may have voted differently. If it was democratic parliment would debate and agree appointments

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    381.The Realist
    It was a Royal who insisted the Royal power was restricted, King Henry I, 1100AD. It is the Royals who actively defend Democracy here in the UK....
    Cobblers. You could equally argue that Charles I & his insistance the Divine Right of Kings led to a Civil War to protect Parliamentary privilege. It is dishonest present selective elements from history as a well-informed arguement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    AAAH How us English love to defend our monarchy! .....but as we all suffer as Cameron and Osbourne tell us we're all in it together we start to realise thats not true. & Cameron and Osbourne are part of the they are at home with the Queen...

    I'm not She's done nothing for me

    But she has titled some very bad people....

    And allowed this unfairness to continue!

    Get rid !

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    Have confidence in yourselves, people - why vest so much love and devotion into a woman you really don't know with such alacrity? She does not work hard - I know plenty of people who break their backs to make ends meet. This delusion is absolutely insulting and the perpetuation of this myth is laughable when people describe sitting around listening to politicians 'hard work'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    I didn't know we owned Antarctica and had the right to name parts of it. Are we really sure it's not now owned by the Chinese?

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    We have a strange democratic set up in the UK - an hereditary Monarch and no written constitution, yet we muddle along and sort out our differences, somehow. So today I'm glad we are talking about whether its right that the Queen attends Cabinet rather than how we cope with a law that enshrines the right of citizens to carry a gun. Our way isn't perfect but for me, and my family, it works.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    I'm just trying to get my head in the view point of the staunch repupblicans (I have no preference one way or another about having a monarchy) - just imagine where we would be if David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair etc were all that a better or worse postion than we are in now?

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    ER -" I made a history this morning.First monarch to attend Cabinet since 1781"

    HRHDofE-"Oh, any good?"

    ER-"Well,I shook a few hands.Listened to some politicians-"

    HRHDofE-"Nothing new,then?"

    ER-"Yes, I got 60 place mats & a big chunk of ice at the South Pole named after me.It is hard times."

    HRHDofE-"Ah,couldn't stretch to a two-year-old good Derby prospect for next year,then?"

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    Having reigned as Monarch for 70 years, more than most of us have lived, and having dealt with more PMs than any of us could remember, please credit HM with the wisdom of knowing what she is doing. Using this article to accuse, or make negative observation, does the contributors no credit whatsoever.

  • Comment number 428.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    God save the queen ?

    From what ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    Oh Lovely!

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    Wow, she must be thrilled about having part of Antarctica named after her FOR A SECOND TIME. There already exists a patch of land called Princess Elizabeth Land. Getting a second piece is just greedy.


Page 31 of 53


More Politics stories



  • Nigel Farage (left) and Douglas CarswellWho's next?

    The Tory MPs being tipped to follow Carswell to UKIP

  • A painting of the White House on fire by Tom FreemanFinders keepers

    The odd objects looted by the British from Washington in 1814

  • President Barack Obama pauses during a press conference on 28 August.'No strategy'

    Obama's gaffe on Islamic State reveals political truth

  • Chris and Regina Catrambone with their daughter Maria LuisaSOS

    The millionaires who rescue people at sea

  • Plane7 days quiz

    What unusual offence got a Frenchman thrown off a plane?

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.