Prince Charles delivers Queen’s Speech to parliament for the first time

London: Prince Charles has taken centre stage at the opening of British parliament, replacing the 96-year-old Queen who missed the grand set-piece event for the first time in almost six decades.

The Queen was forced to withdraw because of a recurrence of mobility issues, with 73-year-old Charles taking her place at the Palace of Westminster to read out the government’s legislative agenda.

Prince Charles sits by the Imperial State Crown as he delivers the Queen’s Speech during the state opening of parliament at the House of Lords in London.Credit:Getty Images

The heir to the throne was joined by his wife, Camilla and son Prince William to jointly open the new session of parliament after the Queen deployed them as Counsellors of State to deputise for her.

The state opening of parliament is an event of huge pomp and pageantry which traditionally sees the Queen travelling in a state coach, escorted by mounted soldiers in ceremonial uniform, while the Imperial State Crown and other regalia travel ahead in a carriage of their own.

In a speech written by the government for the monarch to outline its priorities for the next 12 months, Charles began by saying the government’s priority was to improve the economy and tackle the cost of living crisis.

“Her Majesty’s government’s priority is to grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families,” Charles said.

Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince William proceed behind the Imperial State Crown through the Royal Gallery.Credit:AP

“Her Majesty’s government will level up opportunity in all parts of the country and support more people into work. Her ministers will continue to support the police to make the streets safer, and fund the National Health Service to reduce the COVID backlogs.”

The speech also covered a variety of topics, including economic crime, schools, animal welfare, railway reform and energy security. It also made several commitments that are not presented as legislation, such as a coded reference to ongoing issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Prince William sits by the The Imperial State Crown in the House of Lords Chamber.Credit:AP

It promises to outlaw guerilla tactics used by eco-protestors – such as locking on or gluing themselves to roads, pavements and buildings – under a new public order bill, and police will be handed beefed up stop and search powers to seize protest gear in measures aimed at groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain.

The Queen “reluctantly” pulled out of the major ceremonial occasion on Tuesday AEST nearly 60 years after she last missed it, following advice from royal doctors as she continues to experience “episodic mobility problems”.

It has been viewed as the Queen’s most significant concession yet to her age, with the Queen’s Speech being one of her key constitutional duties.

She watched the speech on television from her home and Windsor Castle where she continues to hold virtual meetings online.

Concluding the eight-minute speech, Charles made a reference to the four-day celebrations marking her 70th year on the throne next month.

“In this year of my Platinum Jubilee, Her Majesty looks forward to the celebrations taking place across the United Kingdom and throughout the Commonwealth, and to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer.“

The Queen had previously only missed the occasion only twice during her 70-year reign: in 1959, and 1963, when she was pregnant with sons Andrew and Edward.

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