UK & World News
Queen At Downing Street For Cabinet Meeting
The Queen has become the first monarch since the 18th century to attend Cabinet on a special visit to mark her Diamond Jubilee.
The monarch was met by Prime Minister David Cameron on the steps of Number 10, which had been covered with a red carpet for the occasion.
She wore a deep blue coat and matching dress by Stuart Parvin - immediately dubbed "Thatcheresque" by commentators.
The Queen made the trip without Prince Philip to collect a present bought by the Secretaries of State to mark her 60-year reign.
Cabinet members clubbed together to buy her a set of 60 placemats - one for each year she has spent on the throne.
The mats, which are bespoke and show traditional images of Buckingham Palace, were suggested by the Queen's own aides and made by a Gloucestershire company called Lady Clare Limited.
Officials refused to disclose the value of the gifts. An unspecified donation was also made to the Diamond Jubilee Trust.
Ministers lined up to shake hands with the monarch before they all went into the final Cabinet of the year.
The Queen took her chance during the meet-and-greet to quiz George Osborne about Britain's gold reserves.
She then sat between Mr Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague for her half-hour stint at the famous Cabinet table.
The Queen is thought to be the first monarch to attend Cabinet since George III in 1781, despite earlier claims Queen Victoria did so.
She only stayed for the first section before leaving ministers to their discussions and moving on to the Foreign Office.
During the meeting, Mr Cameron offered her a "very warm welcome" and congratulated her "on a fantastic jubilee year".
He said Downing Street had researched the last monarch to visit Cabinet and believe it dates back to the 18th century.
George VI, the Queen's father, met Cabinet during World War II, but apparently did not go to the standard meeting.
"We think the last time a monarch came to the Cabinet was in 1781, during the American War of Independence, but I'm happy to report that relations have improved slightly since then," Mr Cameron said.
The Queen joked "gently and humorously" that the Cabinet could make the next Queen's Speech on "the shorter rather than the longer side".
The only other moment she spoke was to wish ministers "happy Christmas" as she left.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said all Cabinet ministers had ensured their shoes were "shiny, freshly polished" for the special visit.
"The Queen seemed very relaxed, in a very good mood and took an enormous interest in the Cabinet discussion," he revealed.
"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."
He dismissed warnings from some quarters 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," he said.
Sky's royal commentator Alastair Bruce said: "It is significant because in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year it puts a focus on what headship of the state is all about and that is supervising the democratic process."
The Foreign Office has also announced that the southern part of British Antarctic Territory is to be named "Queen Elizabeth Land" to mark the jubilee.
The region is a barren, landlocked ice and snow-covered area uninhabited by people and virtually devoid of animal life.