King Charles ‘transition’ has begun as Queen takes ‘big step’ away from formal duties

Queen 'may not be able to get to balcony' for jubilee says Levin

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The State Opening of Parliament is the main ceremonial event in the Parliamentary calendar and will take place on Tuesday, May 10 this year. Its main purpose is for the monarch to formally open Parliament and, in the Queen’s Speech, outline the Government’s proposed policies and legislation for the coming session. The Queen, who has taken a step back from public engagements in recent months, made the last-minute decision not to attend the key state event. 

Her Majesty has only missed the Queen’s Speech twice during her 70-year reign — both times while she was pregnant. 

The monarch’s health concerns have been heightened since a brief stay in hospital last October and she is known to be battling mobility issues. 

Prince Charles is taking on the head of state’s big constitutional duty for the first time; he will open Parliament with his son, Prince William, who will be attending the State Opening for the first time. 

The decision, thought to be unprecedented in modern history, has been described as a significant shift within the monarchy. 

Craig Prescott, a constitutional expert, told that the Queen missing the key event, and Charles attending in her place, is a “big step”. 

He said: “It is one of her keystone annual appearances really. 

“It is the start of the Parliamentary session, and is the start of the Parliamentary year even, it is like the start of term. 

“It is the biggest event in Parliament and the Queen — the monarch — is a part of Parliament in that sense. 

“Constitutionally, it is probably one of the most significant occasions in the year and so for the Queen to decide not to do it, and for Charles to do it in her place, would be a big step.”

He added: “It points out this gradual process that we’re seeing of Charles taking over and doing ever more.”

The Queen did not attend the State Opening in 1959 and 1963 due to her pregnancies with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward respectively. 

On both of these occasions, the Lords Commissioners acted on behalf of the monarch in the proroguing Parliament, appointing the Speaker of the Commons and reading the Queen’s Speech.

Mr Prescott explained that this is the “established procedure” when the monarch cannot attend Parliament. 

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However, according to The Times, discussions on Charles taking over had been “advanced”. 

As late as Monday morning, Palace officials were hopeful that the Queen would attend. However, doctors advised against this. 

Buckingham Palace said: “The Queen continues to experience episodic mobility problems, and in consultation with her doctors has reluctantly decided that she will not attend the state opening of parliament tomorrow.

At Her Majesty’s request, and with the agreement of the relevant authorities, the Prince of Wales will read the Queen’s Speech… with the Duke of Cambridge also in attendance.”

In order for the princes to take the monarch’s place in one of her constitutional duties, a Letters Patent was required. 

Letters Patent, authorised by the Queen, were issued to cover the state opening, delegating to Counsellors of State the royal function of opening a new session of Parliament.

Counsellors of State are members of the Royal Family appointed to act in the monarch’s place. 

It is the first time Counsellors of State have been appointed since 2016, when the Queen travelled to Malta, and is the first time during Her Majesty’s 70-year reign that Counsellors of State have been appointed due to her health.

In this instance, it enables Charles and William to jointly exercise that function. No other functions have been delegated.

Queen delivers speech at State Opening of Parliament in May

Carrying out the State Opening of Parliament will be the nearest the Prince of Wales has come to performing the duties he will one day undertake as king.

While he has taken on more and more of Her Majesty’s responsibilities in recent years, this will be the first time Charles has undertaken the role that symbolises the essence of his mother’s constitutional role. 

The prince will not wear the Imperial State Crown or the robe of state, and the Queen’s throne will remain empty to emphasise the sovereign’s absence. 

The crown, which until recently was worn by the Queen at every state opening, will travel by car with the two princes from Buckingham Palace to Westminster.

Charles, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and William ARE expected to be seated in front of the assembled parliamentarians.

Charles has supported the Queen at the State Opening every year since the retirement of Prince Philip in 2017. 

Although there was hope that Her Majesty would carry out her constitutional duty, on Thursday it was confirmed that she would no longer be hosting her garden parties.

Instead, other members of the Royal Family will attend the three Buckingham Palace parties this year, as the long periods of standing and walking are no longer suitable for the 96-year-old monarch.  

The garden parties have not been held since 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and will make their long-awaited return on Wednesday. 

In the past, they have allowed the Queen to meet members of the public from all walks of life.  

Her Majesty’s frailty and health concerns have raised questions about which events she will attend during her Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June. 

Festivities include Trooping the Colour, the Derby at Epsom racecourse and Platinum Party at the Palace. 

Mr Prescott claimed that the Queen’s decision regarding the State Opening will give the public a better idea of Her Majesty’s involvement in the Jubilee celebrations.

He said: “It will be interesting to see what happens there, and it might give us an indication of what will happen at the Jubilee.”

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