The Queen made her return to public duties on Tuesday, attending the State Opening of Parliament in London—an event for which her husband Prince Philip had been by her side for decades. For this event, week’s after the Duke of Edinburgh’s death at 99, the Queen was accompanied by her son Prince Charles as well as Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.
In the COVID-compliant and socially distanced ceremony, dramatically scaled back from previous years, the Queen read a speech that announced the agenda of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “My government’s priority is to deliver a national recovery from the pandemic that makes the United Kingdom stronger, healthier and more prosperous than before,” she said in the speech. “To achieve this, my government will level up opportunities across all parts of the United Kingdom, supporting jobs, businesses and economic growth and addressing the impact of the pandemic on public services.”
The “consort’s throne,” which traditionally sat beside the Queen’s for the ceremony, was removed following Prince Philip’s death, and is now in the care of the Lord Great Chamberlain. It was not the only change in store. In a nod to the scaled-back nature of the event, the Queen arrived at the Palace of Westminster by car as opposed to the State Carriage, and she wore a dress coat and hat as opposed to the traditional, ceremonial robes. Since 2016 the monarch has also opted not to wear the heavy Imperial State Crown, which weighs two pounds and eight ounces. Instead it was transported by car to the palace from the Tower of London and placed on a table in the House of Lords while the Queen delivered her speech.
The Queen did not wear a mask during the ceremony, though Charles and Camilla did.
The Queen cut a solitary figure today, but she has been used to delivering speeches without her husband by her side since 2017. After Prince Philip’s retirement, the Prince of Wales and Camilla have stood in to support the Queen and today Charles took his mother’s hand as she carefully made her way down several steps following the ceremony.
Accompanied by a lady in waiting, the Queen appeared in good health and spirits as she carried out her duties and made a point of stopping to speak to palace staff after the ceremony.
Despite the lack of ceremony, the speech is one of the most important engagements the Queen carries out every year. The Queen has read at least 67 speeches at the State Opening of Parliament during her reign and has only missed the occasion twice, when she was pregnant.
The speech was notably short and succinct and it is understood that the Queen returned immediately to Windsor where she now resides. For the first time in many months the Royal Standard was flying above Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s London home and the headquarter of the Monarchy. However the Queen is expected to continue to spend more time at Windsor, where she has spent the majority of the past year.
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