The Queen arriving for the state opening of Parliament. Featured image credit: WikiCommons

The Queen: 70 years of opening Parliament

The State Opening of Parliament remains one of the most public displays of tradition and ceremony of the monarch’s duties as it marks the opening of the parliamentary year. 

The Queen opened every session of Parliament during her accession, except three times in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.

The speech, delivered from the throne at the House of Lords in the presence of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, is the only time when the Sovereign meets the constituent parts of Parliament.

Traditionally, the Queen travelled to Westminster by horse drawn carriage while the diamond-encrusted Imperial State Crown arrived separately in a state car with two drivers.

Sir Vince Cable, former MP for Twickenham, Liberal Democrat Leader, and Secretary of State, said: “I regard the Queen, like the public, with great respect for her dutiful performance of her role.”

The speech itself is written by Government ministers and read by the Monarch in a neutral tone to avoid the perception that the monarch supports it and to show that it is a constitutional monarchy rather than absolute. 

However, critics have asked how appropriate it is for the Monarch to be part of presenting the government’s legislative agenda to the public.

Sir Cable said: “I didn’t have strong feelings about it other than feeling it was absurd and inappropriate for the monarch to be reading government propaganda.”

In 2022, Prince Charles opened Parliament with Prince William in their capacity as “counsellors of state”, a position which allows them to undertake official duties if the monarch is unwell, and two of them are present on behalf of the head of state. 

Reflecting on Prince Charles’ involvement in the 2022 opening of Parliament, Sir Cable said: “I feel for the man, coming into the job at an age when most people have retired and carrying out the thankless and impossible task of following in the footsteps of his mother.”

Image credit: robertsharp @WikiCommons (CC BY 2.0)

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