The Queen, 96, still plans to go to key Platinum Jubilee events

The Queen, 96, still plans to go to key Platinum Jubilee events

May 10, 2022

The Queen, 96, still plans to go to key Platinum Jubilee events but won’t confirm her attendance until 11th hour after ‘reluctantly’ pulling out of the State Opening of Parliament on doctor’s orders as Prince Charles prepares to stand in for her

  • The Queen will miss the State Opening of Parliament for the first time in 59 years due to mobility issues 
  • Her Majesty has reluctantly made the decision not to attend for only the third time in her 70-year reign 
  • Prince Charles is set to stand in following discussions between the Queen, her aides and her doctors
  • Prince of Wales will read the Queen’s Speech while supported by Prince William in highly symbolic event
  • Queen is prioritising a small number of events as she battles health problems ahead of historic jubilee 

The Queen today obeyed doctor’s orders and will miss the State Opening of Parliament for the first time in 59 years as she prioritises the Platinum Jubilee next month.

Her Majesty was said to be determined to be at the Houses of Parliament this morning but will skip the Queen’s Speech because she is struggling to walk or stand for long periods.

She was forced to pull out after speaking to her medical team about her ‘episodic mobility problems’, Buckingham Palace said night, despite a ‘wheelchair-friendly route’ being discussed so she could make it.

The Sovereign’s Throne in the House of Lords will remain symbolically empty, with the monarch watching proceedings on television at Windsor. Questions will inevitably be asked about whether the increasingly frail 96-year-old monarch will ever be seen in the Palace of Westminster again, as she reduces her public events.

The monarch is expected to limit her appearances at the Platinum Jubilee to the Trooping the Colour – the parade and flypast that kicks off the celebrations on Thursday June 2 – and a service of celebration at St Paul’s Cathedral the next day, which will be attended by the entire Royal Family including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who have been banned from the Buckingham Palace balcony 24 hours earlier. But her presence is unlikely to be confirmed until the day itself.

Prince Charles will now step in and faces the biggest day of his royal life today as his mother focuses on being well enough to attend events to mark her 70 years on the throne in early June. The heir to the throne has taken on more and more of the Queen’s responsibilities, but this is the most important state occasion he has absorbed so far. 

Symbolically his son William, who will one day sit on the throne himself, will also attend for the first time. The two future kings were specifically given power to jointly act at today’s State Opening on Her Majesty’s behalf so that the ceremony could go ahead. 

The Queen left it until the 11th hour to see if she would be well enough to attend. The 96-year-old takes her constitutional duties extremely seriously, and it is only the third time she has missed it in her 70-year reign. The last time she stayed away was 59 years ago when she was pregnant with Prince Edward.

The State Opening of Parliament is one of the monarch’s most significant public duties and involves the reading of the Queen’s Speech, outlining her government’s policies and proposed legislation for the new parliamentary session.

Until yesterday morning Buckingham Palace had repeatedly said the Queen still ‘hoped’ to attend. She has only missed the event twice in her entire reign – in 1959 and 1963 when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward respectively – and the speech was read by the then Lord Chancellor.

There was no doubt that the high-profile event would have been physically gruelling for her, despite steps being taken to minimise her need to walk.

The Queen pictured as she gave the 2021 Queen’s Speech in the House of Lords in May last year. Today she will miss it for the first time in 59 years as Prince Charles takes on more of her responsibilities

The Queen pictured on the way to her first State Opening of Parliament as monarch in November 1952. Today is only the third time in 70 years she has missed it

The Queen escorted by her son Prince Charles during the State Opening of Parliament at the House of Lords last year. Charles will stand in for his mother this morning

Even though she has taken the lift into the building since 2016 and officials had discreetly discussed a private ‘wheelchair-friendly route’, the Queen would still have been required to walk into the chamber.

After consultations with her doctors yesterday the palace announced last night that she had ‘reluctantly’ taken the decision to pull out.

The Queen’s Speech – what to expect 

What is the Queen’s Speech?

The speech is written by ministers and details the Government’s plans for new laws.

It is due to be read in the House of Lords as part of the ceremonial opening of Parliament.

What will be in the Speech?

Northern Ireland

The Government is expected to use the speech to bring forward changes to Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab refused on Sunday to say whether new measures would be included.

‘What we’re going to be focusing on this week is what our plans are to drive up the economy, protect the cost of living’, Mr Raab told Sky News.

Reports of proposed changes come as the Government grapples with the implications of Sinn Fein’s success in the Stormont Assembly elections.

Brexit freedoms

The Prime Minister has also said he has plans for a ‘super seven’ set of Bills aimed at changing laws the UK inherited from the EU.

According to the Sunday Express, a new Brexit Freedoms Bill will aim to cut EU regulatory ‘red tape’ which remains in UK law after leaving the trading bloc.

A coming Procurement Bill is reportedly aimed at giving small and medium sized businesses a better opportunity to compete for Government contracts, and there are also plans to boost animal welfare and crack down on puppy smuggling.

However, the Times has reported that plans to ban imports of foie gras and fur clothing to the UK have been scrapped from the speech, in an attempt by Boris Johnson to shore up support from the Conservative right wing.

Bill of Rights

Mr Raab has indicated the Government wants to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights.

The Justice Secretary told LBC that a new Bill of Rights would result in ‘less shifting of the goalposts, less elastic interpretations of human rights’, adding that people find the current law ‘frustrating in the context of deporting foreign national offenders’.

Education

Ministers will crack down on truancy, beef up the powers of education watchdogs and reform the funding system in new legislation to create ‘a school system that works for every child’.

Under plans in the Schools Bill, England’s schools would be required to publish an attendance policy and there will be compulsory registers for children who are not in classrooms so the authorities can identify who is not receiving a full-time education.

Levelling up

A Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is expected to give local leaders new powers to rejuvenate high streets, by forcing landlords to rent out empty shop units.

Communities Secretary Michael Gove said: ‘By empowering local communities to rent out shops which have been sat empty for a year or longer, we will end the scourge of boarded up shops that have blighted some of our great towns across the country for far too long.’

Privatisation of Channel 4

Plans to privatise Channel 4, announced in April, are part of a wider series of reforms proposed for the UK’s broadcasting landscape.

Carried-over Bills

The Government has also carried over legislation it did not finish in the previous session of Parliament.

This includes the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill aimed at preventing curbs on free speech in universities, the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, and the Online Safety Bill, a long-awaited piece of legislation aimed at preventing cyberflashing and online stalking, among other online harms. 

It is understood she is continuing to experience what officials describe as the ‘episodic mobility problems’ that have dogged her since last year and forced her to cancel a string of high-profile public engagements.

Her spokesman 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 on Her Majesty’s behalf, with the Duke of Cambridge also in attendance.’

The Duchess of Cornwall will be present as a privy counsellor and future Queen Consort, although the Duchess of Cambridge will not be there.

Aides stressed that the decision not to attend had only been taken yesterday – although contingency plans had long been put in place just in case.

They also stressed the Queen has a ‘busy diary’ this week, with a call to Australia undertaken yesterday, a planned ‘virtual’ privy council meeting and her weekly audience with the Prime Minister tomorrow by phone.

Significantly, she did have to authorise what are known as ‘Letters Patent’ – a legal expression of the monarch’s ‘will’ – to delegate the opening of a new session of Parliament to her Counsellors of State, Prince Charles and Prince William.

In order to prevent delay or difficulty in the dispatch of public business, the sovereign may issue Letters Patent delegating specified ‘royal functions’ to Counsellors of State if they are incapacitated.

Counsellors of state are the four most senior adult members of the British royal family and they currently still include Prince Andrew and Prince Harry – but neither are working royals and the latter does not even reside in the UK.

The situation will increase pressure on Buckingham Palace to force a change of law, allowing Anne and Edward to step up instead should Charles or William be incapable of doing so.

In recent years the Queen has slowly been shedding aspects of the pomp and ceremony around the State Opening to take account of her advancing years, such as wearing ‘day dress’ instead of heavy robes of state and a hat replacing her uncomfortable Imperial Crown.

It will be the first time that William – who has been taking on increasing responsibilities – has joined his father as a future king. His presence is required as two Counsellors of State are needed to attend.

He is due in Manchester later today with Kate to attend the official opening of the Manchester Arena attack memorial. The timing of the event is being adjusted slightly to take account of his new plans.

While the Queen’s throne will be left empty, the Prince of Wales will take centre stage in his seat, with Camilla to his left. William will be on the other side of the Queen’s throne to his right.

Charles will still deliver the speech in his mother’s name, using the words: ‘We are commanded to you to deliver Her Majesty’s Speech in Her Majesty’s own words.’

A No10 spokesman said last night: ‘The Prime Minister fully respects the wishes of Her Majesty and is grateful to the Prince of Wales for agreeing to deliver the speech on her behalf.’

The development comes days after an announcement that she will not attend any of the summer’s garden parties and follows a string of cancelled public appearances including last autumn’s Remembrance Sunday event at the Cenotaph.

Buckingham Palace had been set to wait until Tuesday morning to make a final decision, with aides having prepared contingency plans that included a ‘discreet wheelchair route’, but it is understood she will not attend due to difficulties walking.

Instead, Prince Charles is set to stand in following discussions between the Queen and her aides. He will be supported by his wife Camilla and Prince William.

A new Letters Patent authorised by the Queen was issued to cover the State Opening delegating to Counsellors of State the royal function of opening a new session of Parliament.

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

The Queen’s throne will remain empty in the House of Lords, and the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will sit in their usual seats.

William will sit on the opposite side to Camilla, while the Imperial State Crown will also still travel to Parliament. 

There will also be a slimmed down – but still spectacular – military ceremony with fewer troops but the same standards of pomp and military splendour involving eight different units, including The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. 

The Queen, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall during the State Opening of Parliament on October 14, 2019

The Queen pictured on the throne during the State Opening of Parliament in 1966. Tomorrow will be only the third time she has missed the event

Prince Charles will step in for the Queen, supported by his wife Camilla (pictured together at the State Opening last year)

The Queen standing ahead of her speech in the House of Lords as part of the State Opening of Parliament in 2021

The Queen and Prince Charles, with his wife Camilla sat to his left, pictured during the opening of Parliament in 2019

It is the first time Her Majesty has missed the opening of Parliament for 59 years.

And she has only missed the event twice in her entire reign – in 1959 and 1963 when pregnant. 

Prince Charles ‘will see reading the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament as an honour’, royal expert says 

The Prince of Wales is likely to regard being given the role of reading the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament as an ‘honour’, a royal expert has said

The Prince of Wales is likely to regard being given the role of reading the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament as an ‘honour’, a royal expert has said.

Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty Magazine, also said the Queen’s decision not to attend the major national event had a ‘huge inevitability’ about it given her age of 96.

And he described the task now before Charles as ‘another part of his training’, albeit a duty he probably did no want to fulfil given the circumstances.

Mr Little said: ‘To my mind it was all down to logistics, it’s not an easy building to get into or around when you have mobility issues and I could always foresee it as being a problem.

‘I really didn’t expect that she would be attendance, but you obviously hope that she would and that isn’t going to be possible.

‘And that’s the future as I see it really, that we won’t see her but occasionally we might.’

In announcing that the role the heir to the throne would undertake, 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.’

The Duke of Cambridge, also a future monarch, will attend the State Opening, the first time William has done so – with the royal function of opening a new parliament delegated to both Charles and William by the Queen.

Mr Little said about Charles: ‘I suppose you could say, it’s another part of his training, one of the many tasks that he’d prefer not to be fulfilling right now. But given his mother’s great age there’s a huge inevitability about all this.

‘Clearly he would regard it as an honour to be doing it on her behalf.’

In a few weeks, the nation will gather to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee during an extended four-day Bank Holiday weekend which will see a service of thanksgiving held, Trooping the Colour and a Jubilee pageant staged.

Mr Little said: ‘I’d like to think we will see the Queen on the Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving service and the birthday parade but again it’s very much all about logistics.’

On those occasions her speech, setting out the government’s legislative plans for the coming year, was read by the Lord Chancellor, Viscount Kilmuir. 

MailOnline understands the Queen had been intending to appear – but Parliamentary officials were braced for a late withdrawal this evening. 

She is understood to have a busy diary at Windsor this week with a call with Australia undertaken on Monday, and a planned virtual Privy Council and phone audience with the Prime Minister on Wednesday.

The monarch is also expected to undertake some private engagements later in the week.

Contingency plans had been in place for her appearance, including a ‘discreet wheelchair route’ through Parliament away from the cameras while Charles did the normal procession, but those proposals have now been scrapped.

The monarch would have entered the Palace of Westminster via the Sovereign’s Entrance in the Victoria Tower, where she could use a lift to avoid the 26 steps of the royal staircase. 

Palace officials could then have chosen to keep the Royal Gallery empty to allow her to walk the fewest steps possible into the House of Lords, away from public view.

It comes days after an announcement that she will not attend any of the summer’s Buckingham Palace garden parties.

The State Opening of Parliament is one of the monarch’s most significant public duties, and involves the reading of the Queen’s Speech outlining the government’s policies and proposed legislation for the new parliamentary session.

The ceremony was not held in 2020 and last year a reduced capacity Covid-secure state opening of Parliament was staged on May 11 with the Queen present.

There had been speculation about whether the Queen would attend, especially after it was announced she would not be attending the garden party season and instead would be represented by members of her family.

Her ‘episodic mobility problems’ stretch back to last autumn and have led to her cancelling a run of major engagements over the last seven months.

In October 2021, she used a walking stick at a Westminster Abbey service – the first time she had done so at a major event.

A week later, after a busy autumn programme, she was ordered to rest by doctors and advised to cancel a trip to Northern Ireland.

The Queen was secretly admitted to hospital for ‘preliminary investigations’ and had her first overnight stay in hospital for eight years on October 20 2021.

The next day she was back at her desk at Windsor, carrying out light duties.

But concern arose again when she pulled out of more high-profile engagements, including the Cop26 climate change summit and the Festival of Remembrance.

She was intent on attending the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph, but missed this due to a sprained back.

For more than three months she carried out only light duties, including virtual and face-to-face audiences in the confines of Windsor Castle.

In February 2022 she celebrated her Platinum Jubilee, meeting charity workers at Sandringham House and cutting a Jubilee cake in what was her largest in-person public engagement since October.

Many of her duties are now carried out by video calls, and the country’s longest-reigning sovereign remarked during a in-person audience in February: ‘Well, as you can see, I can’t move.’

There were fears for her health when she finally caught Covid, testing positive on February 20 2022.

The triple-vaccinated Queen suffered from mild cold-like symptoms, but said the virus left her ‘very tired and exhausted’.

She carried on with light duties while self isolating at Windsor but cancelled some virtual audiences.

Queen Elizabeth II with Duke of Edinburgh after the State Opening of Parliament on November 17, 1999

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, second left, walk through the Central Lobby on the way to the House of Lords in May last year

The Queen and husband Prince Philip sitting in the House of Lords during the 1997 State Opening of Parliament

The Queen pictured leaving the Houses of Parliament following her traditional annual speech in November 2009

The Queen delivering her speech from the throne in the House of Lords during the State Opening in June 2014

Queen Elizabeth pictured during the Queen’s Speech to the House of Lords in June 2017

She pulled out the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in March, a significant date in the royal calendar given the importance to her of the family of nations, and did not attend the Maundy Thursday service.

But she rallied to honour the Duke of Edinburgh at a memorial service at the end of March, walking slowly and carefully with the aid of a stick, and holding on to the Duke of York’s elbow for support.

The Queen has been using a walking stick in public since she attended a service marking the centenary of the Royal British Legion last October. 

Boris Johnson will tomorrow bid to reset his premiership this week with plans to tear up old EU laws, Level Up the Red Wall and give locals more power over housing developments.

The measures are expected to form part of the new legislative agenda being set out at the State Opening of Parliament.

Amid great pomp and ceremony,around 30 Bills will be outlined – including a coordinated ‘super seven’ designed to highlight the benefits of Brexit, from slashing red tape to bolstering protection for animals.

There will also be Levelling Up, planning, council tax and schools reforms that ministers hope will shore up Mr Johnson’s increasingly fragile ‘big tent’ of support in traditional southern heartlands and post-industrial areas in the North and Midlands.

Although Labour failed to make major inroads at the local elections, Tories have been particularly alarmed by the Lib Dems’ success across ‘Blue Wall’ strongholds.

As part of the package, local residents are expected to be given the right to be consulted on ‘design codes’ spelling out the standards that housing developments must meet.

Ministers will look at how the planning inspectorate handles targets on local housing requirements, with greenbelt and areas of natural beauty no longer forced to meet ‘unrealistic’ goals as long as they produce a plausible plan.

A fast-track application category could also be added to the planning system for small builders in an effort to ‘level the playing field’ with big developers.

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