The ceremony, which includes the reading of the Queen’s speech outlining the government’s legislative program, is considered an important symbol of the monarch’s constitutional role as head of state.
The Queen’s decision to delegate her role to Charles will likely be seen by the public as evidence that a transition is underway, with Elizabeth remaining on the throne but handing more responsibilities to Charles.
“The Heir is teetering on the brink of becoming a de facto Prince Regent. William will observe what lies ahead,” said former BBC reporter Peter Hunt. “With the Queen gradually withdrawing from public life, the palace wants to show that the monarchy is safe in the hands of father and son.”
What is the Queen’s Speech?
The speech outlines the government’s legislative program and is delivered during the official opening of each session of Parliament. Since each parliamentary session lasts about a year, it is an annual event.
The speech was written by the elected government, which is currently headed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
It will be delivered during the state opening of parliament. The monarch traditionally arrives in a horse-drawn carriage, sits on the sovereign’s throne in the House of Lords and wears the Imperial State Crown
But Charles, 73, did not sit on the sovereign’s throne, which had been removed, but on the consort’s throne, which had been used by his father, Prince Philip. In the place where the Queen’s throne normally stands, the Imperial state crown was placed on a velvet cushion.
Charles delivered the speech in the third person, using “Her Majesty’s Government.”
Why did Elizabeth decide to skip the speech?
Buckingham Palace did not address what it called “episodic mobility issues” but the Queen has struggled to get around in recent months. She has been seen on some occasions with a walking stick and Prince Andrew accompanied her to Westminster Abbey last month for the memorial service for her late husband, Prince Philip.
That said, the speech involves more than just reading the comments. There is a long walk to the House of Lords, stairs to her throne – and carriages past. All these obstacles can pose a challenge to the sovereign.
Elizabeth, who has only recently recovered from a bout of COVID-19, is also gearing up for four days of festivities in honor of her platinum anniversary, scheduled for June 2-5. She has reigned since 1952.
Has the Queen ever missed the speech before?
Yes. In 1959, when she was in the late stages of pregnancy with Prince Andrew, and again in 1963 for the birth of Prince Edward.
On both occasions, Parliament was opened by a royal commission, with the presiding member’s speech.
So what’s different this time?
This year, the Queen formally asked Prince Charles to deliver the speech under rules that would allow her to delegate some of her duties to senior members of the royal family who are considered “counselors to the state.” State councilors are required to act in pairs, so Charles will be accompanied by his eldest son, Prince William.
With the tasks delegated to Charles, there will be less disruption to the ceremonial aspects of the day.
The public should be able to take comfort in the continuity of the monarchy, said Robert Hazell, a professor of government and constitution at University College London.
“Yes, we are actually preparing for a transition,? he told The Associated Press. “The Queen is in her mid-nineties. She will not live forever. We are approaching the final years of her reign and during those final years, if she is no longer able to appear in public, Prince Charles may replace her.”