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Queen back in royal robes for ‘sham’ State Opening

The monarch wore a day dress and hat at the last State Opening of Parliament in 2017.

The Queen during the State Opening of Parliament (Victoria Jones/PA)
The Queen during the State Opening of Parliament (Victoria Jones/PA)

By Laura Elston, PA Court Reporter

The Queen was back in royal robes and a glittering gown for the State Opening of Parliament amid the event being branded a “sham”.

In 2017, the monarch wore a day dress and blue hat with yellow flowers which sparked comparisons to the European flag, and arrived by car.

The pomp was scaled back two years ago because the ceremony, after which the Queen dashed off to Royal Ascot, fell too close to Trooping the Colour.

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The Queen at the State Opening in 2017 (Carl Court/PA)

For 2019, the monarch, who this time travelled in a carriage procession in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, returned wearing most of her regalia.

But the 93-year-old head of state wore the George IV Diadem throughout, rather than switching into the heavy Imperial State Crown.

The Imperial State Crown, made of more than 3,000 gemstones and weighing two pounds and 13 ounces, was instead carried through the House of Lords on a red and gold cushion and placed on a table alongside the Queen for the duration of her speech.

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The Queen in her robe and the George IV Diadem (Toby Melville/PA)

It is not the first time the Queen has not worn the Imperial State Crown during a full ceremonial State Opening of Parliament.

She was without it in 1952, as the first State Opening of her reign fell before her 1953 coronation.

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The Imperial State Crown is carried in to the State Opening of Parliament (Victoria Jones/PA)

The timing of this State Opening has sparked criticism.

Former foreign secretary Dame Margaret Beckett branded it a sham, while Sir Ed Davey, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, accused Boris Johnson of being discourteous to the monarch.

Dame Margaret said: “Everybody knows this is a sort of sham Queen’s Speech…

“We all know that what the Government wants is an election tomorrow.”

Sir Ed Davey added of the Prime Minister: “I think he’s being discourteous to Her Majesty.

“First of all we saw how he misled her according to the Supreme Court over the first attempt of proroguing Parliament. Now he’s bringing her into electoral politics.

“I think Conservatives up and down the land will be shocked that a Conservative prime minister is doing this to our Queen.”

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The Queen holding the Prince of Wales’s hand (Victoria Jones/PA)

The Queen appeared to be breathing a little more rapidly as she took her place on the throne, and gave a small cough as she began her speech with a slightly croaky voice.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment.

Royal author Robert Hardman described the Queen’s decision not to wear the weighty crown as part of a “few sensible tweaks given the passage of time”.

“Wisely, she said I’ll bring it but I’ll put it on a cushion,” he said.

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The Queen, with the Duke of Edinburgh, wearing the Imperial State Crown in 2016 (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

The monarch previously joked about the historic crown: “You can’t look down to read the speech, you have to take the speech up. Because if you did your neck would break, it would fall off.”

The Queen, as she has for the past two State Openings, used a lift rather than stairs to enter Parliament.

Buckingham Palace said in 2016 that the “modest adjustment” avoiding the 26 steps of the royal staircase at the Sovereign’s Entrance was made for “the Queen’s comfort”.

The Queen remains active but is known to suffer from knee pain and has also had a bad back for a number of years.

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The Queen arriving through the Norman Porch for the State Opening (Paul Ellis/PA)

Mr Hardman said the ceremony on Monday returned the Queen to the heart of her role and was not seen by the monarch or her aides as an imposition.

“I don’t get any feeling that the Queen or anyone at the palace feels put out by coming today,” he told BBC News.

“This is a sort of constitutional reboot. This is putting the Queen back where she belongs at the heart of things.”

The monarch arrived – for her 65th Queen’s Speech – wearing a fur stole, over her gown, which she replaced in the Robing Room with the long crimson velvet Robe of State, as is the custom.

For the first time, a female Black Rod took part in the proceedings.

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Lady Usher of the Black Rod Sarah Clarke, left, and Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow as they walk through Central Lobby (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

Sarah Clarke, Lady Usher of the Black Rod, is the first woman to hold the post in the House of Lords in the 650-year history of the role.

Black Rod saw the doors to the Commons shut in her face – in one of the more unusual traditions of the State Opening – as she arrived to summon MPs.

It is a practice that dates back to the Civil War and is said to symbolise the Commons’ independence from the monarchy.

Black Rod has to strike the door three times before it is opened.

It is the Queen’s duty as Head of State to formally open each new session of Parliament amid tradition and customs dating back centuries.

Elizabeth II, the nation’s longest reigning monarch, has done so on all but two occasions during her 67-year reign – in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.

The George IV State Diadem was made for the coronation of George IV to encircle the king’s velvet Cap of Estate, which he wore in procession to Westminster Abbey.

The diadem features on postage stamps.

PA

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