Was the Queen opposed to the Falklands War?

In season 4 of The Crown, Queen Elizabeth II is seen looking distinctly unimpressed by events in the Falkland Islands. What did she really think of the war? Was she opposed to it? Historian Dominic Sandbrook explains…

Queen Elizabeth II at Falkland Islands remembrance service 2007

Is it true that the Queen was opposed to the Falklands War?

No. There’s no evidence for this. Polls show that right from the start the Falklands War was exceptionally popular, with between seven and eight out of 10 people strongly in favour. There’s no reason to believe the Queen was among the dissenting minority.

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Did the Queen say anything in public about the war?

She rarely spoke about it in public, because she was anxious not to interfere with the diplomatic negotiations. But when, late in the military campaign, the US president Ronald Reagan visited Windsor Castle, her remarks at the state banquet were very revealing. Britain, said the Queen, was standing up “for the cause of freedom. The conflict in the Falkland Islands was thrust on us by naked aggression and we are naturally proud of the way our fighting men are serving their country.”

British troops surrender to the Argentines during the Falklands War
British troops surrender to the Argentines during the Falklands War in 1982. (Photo by Rafael Wollmann/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Did any of her family serve in the campaign?

Yes – Prince Andrew, who was 22-years-old at the time and second-in-line to the throne after Prince Charles. He was serving as a Sea King helicopter pilot on HMS Invincible when it was sent to the Falklands. The government wanted to reassign him to a desk job for his own safety. But Andrew – and his mother – insisted that he be allowed to fight, which he did, flying numerous missions during the war.

Did the Queen care about the Falkland Islands?

The Queen had no particular personal stake in the islands themselves. But they were technically her territory, and the islanders were her subjects, so she almost certainly did care. There’s a telling detail in Margaret Thatcher’s own private, unpublished memoir of the war. After hearing the news that South Georgia had been retaken, Thatcher recalls how she “went over to see the Queen at Windsor. It was wonderful to be able personally to give her the news that one of her islands had been restored to her.” Unless Thatcher was completely deluding herself, that suggests the Queen cared very much indeed.

Did the Queen celebrate at the end of the war?

Like other servicemen’s parents, the Queen and Prince Philip came to greet Invincible when it returned. But with typical punctiliousness, she made a point of not appearing triumphalist. When the Task Force marched in celebration through London that autumn, it was Thatcher who effectively took the salute, not the Queen. That provoked a lot of comment, but it reflected the way the campaign had become ‘Thatcher’s war’.

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Dominic Sandbrook is a historian who has written widely on postwar Britain and has made several BBC documentaries. His latest book is Who Dares Wins (Allen Lane, 2019), which tells the story of the years of Margaret Thatcher’s first administration in the early 1980s