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Then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and former prime ministers Margaret Thatcher, Edward Heath, James Callaghan and John Major join the Queen to celebrate her Golden Jubilee in 2002

Queen Elizabeth II and her prime ministers: How many served throughout her reign?

Image: The Queen in 2002 with her former prime ministers (l-r) Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Edward Heath, Jim Callaghan and John Major Open Governmental License

For over 70 years Queen Elizabeth II was served by 15 British Prime ministers from all political parties. Some she had taken to more than others.

Liz Truss of the Conservative party was the last PM, becoming No 15 in a venerable lineup that included Winston Churchill, Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and the last incumbent at 10 Downing Street, Boris Johnson.

Winston Churchill (1951 – 1955)

The statesman, soldier and author as well as amateur painter served as Prime Minister of Great Britain twice (1940-1945) and (1951 – 1955) and was revered as a war hero during WW2.

Born into an aristocratic family, the Conservative party leader was also a member of the Liberal Party as a young man from 1904-1924. No matter whether Churchill’s political views and values diverged from the young Elizabeth, the Queen was in awe of Churchill and looked forward to his company, once replying to the question 'Which PM she enjoyed meeting most?' she replied 'Winston of course, because it’s always such fun'.

Anthony Eden (1955 -1957)

The second prime minister to serve under Queen Elizabeth II was less of a friendship and more of a relationship of constitutional propriety. The Conservative party leader was the first PM to court controversy due to the Suez Canal crisis. Despite Eden resigning in 1957 on the grounds of ill health and being suspected of misleading the House of Commons, he was the first prime minister who kept the Queen informed of the politics of the day and who shared all of the Suez papers with her.

Harold Macmillan (1957 – 1963)

The Queen was said to have not warmed immediately to Macmillan during his early days as PM but grew to respect and rely on his counsel. The Conservative party leader, who was badly injured during WWI and suffered permanent mobility issues, was known for his pragmatism, wit and unflappability.

A supporter of the welfare state he worked to restore the UK-US relationship after the Suez crisis. Despite many controversies during Macmillan’s term in office, he called the Queen 'A great support, because she is the one person you can talk to', believing she was the soul of discretion.

Alec Douglas-Home (1963 - 1964)

As Prime Minister Douglas-Home had the advantage of getting on with Queen Elizabeth due to the fact he had been a childhood friend of the Queen Mother. Although only PM for one year Queen Elizabeth made an effort to re-establish an informal relationship. Douglas-Home’s appointment as prime minister after Harold Macmillan’s resignation was unpopular with many of his Conservative peers after Macmillan himself had advised the Queen that he was the best man for the job.

Regarded as an aristocrat by the Labour party and criticised for being out of touch with ordinary people Douglas-Home did however remain a friend of the Queen and helped her name several horses.

Harold Wilson (1964 – 1970, 1974 – 1976)

The Queen’s first Labour Party PM, Harold Wilson is known to be one of her favourites. He served under her twice and was bestowed the honour of helping the monarch with the washing up after barbeques at Balmoral.

Despite Wilson’s down-to-earth working-class background, the Huddersfield-born prime minister loved the pomp and circumstance of royal meetings and in turn, the Queen enjoyed hearing about ‘real life’ from a man she admired and could trust.

Edward Heath (1970 – 1974)

The Queen’s relationship with Edward Heath was said to be one of mutual indifference. Heath’s lack of deference to her majesty, on occasions interrupting and talking over her, didn’t help the relationship, as well as once falling asleep while having dinner with the monarch and former prime ministers. During a meeting with world leaders in 1991, the Queen

was reported telling the former Conservative leader and PM that he was 'expendable', a reference to the fact that he was then no longer in frontline politics.

James Callaghan (1976 – 1979)

The Queen’s second Labour Prime Minister, James Callahan proved to be a refreshing easy going premier compared to the awkward Edward Heath.

Six-foot-one tall Callaghan who presided over a tumultuous era of national strikes that ended in the ‘Winter of Discontent’ was said to have had a warm rapport with her majesty and is quoted as saying, 'One of the great things about her is that is that she always seems able to see the funny side of life. All the conversations were enjoyable.

The Queen once placed a flower in his buttonhole as they took a stroll through the grounds of Buckingham Palace.

Margaret Thatcher (1979 – 1990)

A cordial relationship between Britain’s first female Prime Minister of the Conservative party and the Queen was noted for its lack of warmth and divergence of opinions on policies, Margaret Thatcher implemented during her 11-year reign as premier. Despite the lack of camaraderie between the two women, the Queen chose to attend Thatcher’s funeral in April 2013 as a personal gesture due to her respect for her.

John Major (1990 – 1997)

Conservative Party Premier Major oversaw several major crises of the Queen including the breakup of Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s marriage as well as the catastrophic fire at Windsor Castle in November 1992.

The friendly relationship between the younger premier and the Queen was possibly enhanced by the fact that Major would often take his wife Norma to Balmoral where they would enjoy barbecues and informal chats with the Queen and Prince Philip.

Tony Blair (1997 – 2007)

Heralding a new era of the Labour Party in No 10, Tony Blair was the first premier to be born during the Queen’s reign. He was not popular with her majesty and the Royal household due to his assumption that he had ‘saved’ the Royal Family’s reputation during the controversy over Lady Diana’s shocking death in 1997.

Blair seeing monarchy as ‘antiquated’ was probably not lost on the Queen. The fact Blair later revealed private conversations with the Queen in his memoirs, describing his weekend barbecues at Balmoral as ‘surreal and utterly freaky’ suggests the former prime minister and the Queen were not the best of friends.

Gordon Brown (2007 – 2010)

The Queen enjoyed impersonating Brown’s dour Scottish accent but their relationship as Queen and premier was possibly more cordial than friendly. Like Tony Blair, Brown no longer prime minister in 2011 was not invited to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. However, after resigning as PM the Queen appeared to have warmed to the avuncular Scot when she invited Brown, his wife and family to come to see her.

David Cameron (2010 – 2016)

The Eton-educated Conservative Party leader had to apologise to the Queen shortly after he took up his position in No 10 when he indiscreetly told New York mayor Michael Bloomberg on camera about her political position on the subject of Scottish independence. Related to the Queen as the fifth cousin twice removed, Cameron proved to be a more palatable character compared to his predecessor Margaret Thatcher, whose right-wing Conservative values jarred with the Queen’s more liberal views.

Theresa May (2016 – 2019)

The second female Prime Minister to serve under the Queen, Theresa May had a surprisingly warm relationship with her majesty forged through shared family values. The fact that May knew how to curtsey and do it without reluctance (unlike the Blairs) and that both had husbands called Philip, possibly helped to foster the hand of friendship between them. It is said that the Queen was genuinely sad to see Theresa May forced to step down from her premiership when she failed to secure a Brexit agreement with Europe.

Boris Johnson (2019 – 2022)

Like his predecessor David Cameron, Johnson was educated at Eton but proved to cause upset and embarrassment when he had to apologise twice to her during his three years in office. The first occasion was after his decision to prologue Parliament was deemed by the Supreme Court as unlawful and the second was for Tory members’ illegal parties breaching Covid-19 rules on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.

Despite Johnson’s seemingly lack of propriety, the pair got on and had a good working relationship, illustrated by the Queen sending Johnson and his then partner ‘warm wishes’ on the birth of their son.

Elizabeth Truss (2022 - ?)

Elizabeth (Liz) Truss, the latest incumbent in No 10 to serve as Prime Minister, is still an open book and unknown quantity regarding her premiership style. Besides being referred to by the French press as the ‘Iron Weathercock’ due to her history of changing her views, what is known is that as a 19-year-old student and member of the Liberal Party then she made a rousing speech calling for the abolition of the monarchy.

Meeting the Queen at Balmoral as part of the traditional protocol before taking office to serve under her, is an ironic twist to the story of her majesty’s relationship with Britain’s PMs for her seven decades on the throne.