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The Queen's 'think carefully' Scottish independence comment: A crucial intervention or friendly conversation?

Chris Boffey is a former news editor of the Observer, Sunday Telegraph and the Mirror and onetime special adviser to the Labour government.

At the height of the Thatcher government in 1986 a headline was splashed across the Sunday Times reading "Queen dismayed by 'uncaring' Thatcher". The story had come direct from the press office at Buckingham Palace, a bombshell remark to a political reporter making a routine call.

Because the story was of such massive proportions, the palace and its eminent press secretary Michael Shae were given numerous opportunities to backtrack that weekend but never did.

The palace knew what it was doing, but were the Queen's remarks on Sunday at Balmoral that Scots should "think carefully" before voting in the independence referendum a crucial intervention or just a friendly conversation on the big topic of the day?

And were Prince Harry's comments on the British Invictus games and the possibility of staging them in Glasgow also part of the strategy?

The palace is now saying nothing except that it never comments on private conversations between the Queen and members of the public. Previously it had warned the press and politicians to keep the royal family out of the debate as they were remaining neutral.

The no campaign is obviously buoyant and putting spin on the remarks that even the Queen may not have intended, while Alex Salmond must be putting pressure on the palace to give some form of explanation. I doubt if he will get any.

The Daily Telegraph has tried to read the Queen's remarks like one of the old time Kremlinologists watching every twitch of Brezhnev's eyebrows in an attempt to persuade readers that, like the Telegraph, she is against independence.

Until someone writes their memoirs in a few years time we will probably never know if the Queen was sending a message but given her previous she has form for it.

If she was intervening it is a calculated risk. But the position of the royal family in the event of a yes vote is as much as a guess as what happens to the economy, defence, security and the EU

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