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What the Queen misses the state opening of Parliament means for Britain

The Queen’s decision to withdraw from the state opening of Parliament served as something of a reality check for Britain.

On Tuesday, for the first time in 59 years, the Queen was not in the upper house to give the Queen’s speech, instead the duty fell on Prince Charles. For a brief moment Charles dropped his gaze on the imperial crown that sat beside him; a moment filled with symbolism for a nation that agrees with the majestic health of Her Majesty. The scene seemed like it was a snapshot of the future. Flanked by his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and his son, Prince WilliamCharles gave his speech from the consort’s throne.

The historic decision to withdraw from today’s state opening of parliament will have been a difficult and painful decision. The Queen takes her responsibility as head of state very seriously, and the state opening of parliament is her most important constitutional role.

Hoffolk announced last night that Prince Charles would perform for the Queen for the first time at the ceremony at the Palace of Westminster, and today Charles, the longest-serving Prince of Wales in history, did an excellent job. After all, he has had a life experience of supporting – and learning from – his mother. But the image of the Queen’s vacant throne was a moving image that made many wonder if she would ever reopen parliament. It was also a poignant reminder that one day, in the not-too-distant future, Charles will occupy that seat.

Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (C) sits at The Imperial State Crown with Britain’s Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (R) and Britain’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, (2nd L) in the House of Lords Chamber during the state opening of Parliament in Houses of Parliament, London, 10 May 2022 – Queen Elizabeth II missed Tuesday’s ceremonial opening of Britain’s Parliament as Prime Minister Boris Johnson tries to breathe new life into his faltering government by unveiling its plans for the future year. (Photo by Alastair Grant / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ALASTAIR GRANT / POOL / AFP via Getty Images)ALASTAIR GRANTS

We are actually witnessing a transfer of power in which Charles assumes the role of Prince-Regent. Although the Regency Act has not been officially invoked, Charles is increasingly stepping in for the Queen, although for the time being she remains responsible and central decision-maker.

And the decisions she makes are sensible and practical. The issuance of a letter patent to enable Charles and William, both state advisers, to attend the ceremony in the Queen’s place was an example of how she can remain head of state and delegate to those she calls “my deputies.”

However, there are things that need to be sorted out now when the plans are laid for the next reign, not least the problem of Prince Andrew and Prince Harry be state advisers. Had Charles and William not been able to attend today, the duty could have fallen on two members of the family who are not officially royals.

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